Walking at a fast pace is key for lowering dementia and cancer risk, research claims

Walking at a fast pace is key for lowering dementia and cancer risk, research claims

Walking has been dubbed one of the best exercises for warding off diseases and trimming the waistline – but do you really need to do 10,000 steps a day?

Previous studies have suggested that 10,000 steps is the benchmark for a healthy dose of daily activity and can reduce the risk of an early death.

But researchers from Australia and Denmark have claimed that pace can lower this risk further, even by doing less steps.

Experts monitored 78,500 Brits over the age of 40 between 2013 and 2015 using wearable fitness trackers.

In one study, researchers found that 9,800 daily steps at a casual pace cut the risk of dementia in half.

Meanwhile, participants were 57 percent less likely to develop the condition if they achieved 6,300 steps at a fast speed.

And for power walkers, the risk was up to 62 percent lower.

Another study found that every 2,000 steps walked per day lowered the risk of a premature death by around a tenth.

But walking at a faster pace was linked to an even greater protective effect.

Senior author of the study and public health expert at the University of Sydney, Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, said: “Step count is easily understood and widely used by the public to track activity levels thanks to the growing popularity of fitness trackers and apps but rarely do people think about the pace of their steps.”

Dr Matthew Ahmadi, co-author and researcher at the university, added: “The take-home message here is that for protective health benefits people could not only ideally aim for 10,000 steps a day but also aim to walk faster.”

“The size and scope of these studies using wrist-worn trackers makes it the most robust evidence to date suggesting that 10,000 steps a day is the sweet spot for health benefits and walking faster is associated with additional benefits,” said Dr Ahmadi.

Participants wore a wrist accelerometer to measure physical activity over a seven day period.

Seven years later their step counts were compared to medical records and death certificates.

Only those who were free of dementia, heart disease or cancer in the first two years of the study were included in the final results.

The study found that participants who walked around 3,800 steps a day at any speed cut their risk of dementia by 25 percent.

But those who walked around 9,826 steps a day at any speed, lowered their risk by 51 percent.

People who walked at a pace of over 40 steps per minute, got a 57 percent protective effect with only 6,315 steps a day.

Researchers found that the optimal duration of physical activity for reducing dementia risk was achieved by those who walked at a brisk pace of 112 steps per minute for at least 30 minutes a day.

In the second study with the same participants, they found that every 2,000 steps per day lowered the risk of a premature death by between 8 and 11 percent, up to 10,000 steps.

It also cut the risk of participants developing cardiovascular disease and cancer diagnosis.

Researchers explained that walking at a faster pace was linked with “lower risks across all outcomes, beyond the benefit of total daily steps”.

According to the NHS, regular walking has been proven to reduce the risk of some chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer.

It can also improve your mood and reduce your risk of depression, claims the health body.

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