Walking is the most common form of exercise, and there’s good reason for that: it’s an easy, free way to keep fit and move more.
There are a couple of standout walking targets: the gold standard 10,000 steps a day; and 30 minutes of brisk walking a day.
But 10,000 steps doesn’t account for pace (10,000 steps at a slower rate won’t deliver the same health benefits as 10,000 taken at a faster rate), while telling someone walk briskly doesn’t necessarily indicate what brisk means.
A review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine offers a solution: it found a pace of 100 steps a minute will ensure you’re walking fast enough to gain optimum health benefits.
The study found 100 steps a minute will push you into that all-important moderate-intensity range of physical activity — which is defined as about 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate, and equal to approximately three metabolic equivalents (METs), which is how exercise scientists measure physical activity.
So you can see it’s a lot easier to say “walk at 100 steps per minute” than “walk at 70 percent of your MHR” or “walk at at least three METs”.
“Evidence consistently supports a cadence of >100 steps/min as a heuristic threshold value indicative of absolutely defined moderate-intensity ambulatory activity in ostensibly healthy adults,” noted the study.
Translation: A pace of 100 or more steps a minute is a good shortcut to tell if you’re walking fast enough for good health.
If you don’t have a pedometer, or a smart watch, to measure steps, just count them for a minute to gauge your pace — or count how many steps you take in 15 seconds, then multiply it by four.
The study was led by University of Massachusetts professor Catrine Tudor-Locke, who specialises in investigating walking behaviour.
Her past research has suggested 10,000 steps a day is probably enough to be considered active — but that you’re best off taking at least 3,000 steps a day at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity.
FYI, that works out to about 30 minutes of walking at 100 steps a minute (which in turn works out to a pace of about 4.3km/hour).