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Walking faster could lead to better health outcomes than a slower-paced stroll, study finds

Having a destination in mind can help consumers pick up the pace

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Recent studies have highlighted the ways that walking to work, and just walking in general, can boost consumers’ health.

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Ohio State University found that consumers who engage in a faster-paced walk are likely to have better health outcomes than those who typically move at a more leisurely place. Their findings revealed that having a specific destination in mind, like walking to work, could help produce the best results for consumers. 

“We found that walking for utilitarian purposes significantly improves your health, and that those types of walking trips are easier to bring into your daily routine,” said researcher Gulsah Akar. “So, basically, both as city planners and as people, we should try to take advantage of this as much as possible.”  

Walking with purpose

To understand how walking at a faster clip can improve consumers’ health outcomes, the researchers analyzed data from the National Household Travel Survey, which included data from over 128,000 adults. 

The participants answered questions about their typical walking outings, including the length of the walk and what the purpose of the trip was. To gauge the participants’ health, the researchers had them self-score their overall day-to-day health. 

The findings showed that taking regular walks is incredibly beneficial to consumers’ health. However, there are ways to reap even more benefits from an outdoor walk. The researchers found that the starting point of the walk was important. The study revealed that starting at home increased the likelihood that the walk lasted for at least 10 minutes. 

Walking with a purpose yielded the best health-related results. The researchers found that walking to work was some of the best walking consumers can do because the faster pace that participants tended to move at led to better overall health outcomes.

“I was thinking the differences would not be that significant, that walking is walking, and all forms of walking are helpful,” said Akar. “And that is true, but walking for some purposes has a significantly greater effect on our health than others.” 

More physical activity through walking

Though walking faster did result in improved health, the researchers explained that running isn’t necessary to make the most of these outings. The study revealed that a faster walk that produced the greatest health benefits was still under three miles per hour. This pace was sufficient, though, in helping consumers stay active. 

Even as a low-impact activity, walking can help consumers incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines -- especially as part of their daily commutes. 

“That means going to a gym or recreation center aren’t the only ways to exercise,” Akar said. “It’s an opportunity to put active minutes into our daily schedules in an easy way.” 

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