It may inspire jokes among the more athletically inclined, but mall walking (typically attributed as a pastime for senior citizens) has benefits for all ages. The simple activity may be overshadowed by flashy high-intensity workouts that garner praise for their fat-burning attributes, a new study says that walking—even just a little—can help you live longer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend walking two hours and 30 minutes per week. A large study of more than 139,000 people found that walking for even less than that significantly lowered a person’s risk of dying. This amount averages out to about 20 minutes a day (or a few laps around the block). Additionally, the more people walked, the more benefits they received. Walking one to two times more than the recommended 20 minutes a day reduced risk of death by 20 percent.
The large cohort study took place over 13 years, and focused on older adults, with a mean age of 71 for men and 69 for women. A large body of research already shows that consistent physical activity is one of the best tools for living a long and healthy life, especially for senior citizens when health problems begin to set in. But studies have shown that older people don't exercise regularly and women in particular are less active than men. This new study shows that maybe we don't need as much exercise as the medical community thinks.
For their findings, researchers used data collected between 1999 and 2012 from the the Nutrition Cohort of American Cancer Society’s preventative study. People completed surveys every two years about their weekly exercise routines. At the end of the study, scientists looked at how many people died from any cause.
The new data add to the growing evidence that being healthy doesn't mean spending hours at the gym. Beginning in the 1990s, some very helpful researchers began studying how people could reap all of the benefits of exercise with the least amount of effort. Last year, French scientists found that older adults could decrease their risk of mortality by walking for only 15 minutes a day, reports Time.
Another study from 2015 found that low-intensity exercises were a more practical approach for older adults because they caused fewer injuries and were easy to stick with and improved strength, flexibility and balance. And as the authors from this study explain, “Walking is simple, free, and does not require any training, and thus is an ideal activity for most Americans, especially as they age.”
Looks like there really is no need for gym memberships—just a trip to the mall.