A study conducted in the U.S. sought to find how walking fared as a means to curb the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to vigorous exercise. It involved 72,488 nurses aged 40 to 65 years old at the time of entry. None of them had any record of cancer or cardiovascular disease.
The researchers collected detailed information on the subjects' physical activity in 1986, then updated their data in 1988 and 1992. This information covered both vigorous and non-vigorous exercise, as well as a walking history which they divided into three classifications according to pace: easy or casual walkers (less than two mph), average walkers (2.0 to 2.9 mph), and brisk walkers (above three mph).
They wanted to know how much calories the participants burned from their physical activities in a week. To obtain the figures, they calculated a weekly metabolic-equivalent (MET) or the number of calories needed to perform an activity divided by the number of calories consumed when at rest.
The researchers determined that an hour of vigorous activity amounted to more than six MET, while non-vigorous activities of the same duration resulted in less than six MET. Walking was computed to be at 2.5 to 4.5 MET depending on one's pace.
The participants' data were divided into quintiles according to their number of MET-hours per week. Observations indicated that women in the higher MET quintiles were leaner and had lower incidences of hypertension, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia compared to their peers in the lower MET quintiles. They were also less likely to smoke.
The women in the highest total activity quintile showed 34 percent lower risks of contracting cardiovascular diseases. Among women who did not engage in vigorous physical activities, walking at a brisk pace for one to three hours showed similar results, reducing their risk of a coronary event by 30 percent. (Related: Walking regularly slashes stroke risk in women by nearly 50 percent.)
These findings are echoed in another study, this time on older women. This research involved 73,700 participants aged 50 to 79 upon entry. The enrollment of subjects began between 1994 and 1998 and observations were made up to the middle of the 2000's.
The researchers gathered detailed information about the women, including their blood pressure, lifestyle, and family medical history. Data regarding their recreational physical activities were also recorded and were used to draw a weekly energy expenditure measured in MET.
The study found that women who exercised more had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This was true regardless of the subjects' age or race. As in the previous study cited, the benefits increased the faster the women walked. Engaging in other physical activities aside from walking also led to enhanced outcomes.
Current research indicates that the risk of men developing coronary diseases is twice that of women. According to a study conducted on Japanese men, even a little bit of walking can go a long way in curbing this danger.
The research involved 6,017 men aged 35 to 60 years old. When the study began, none of the subjects had a history of diabetes or hypertension. Their blood pressure was also established to be in the normal range.
All subjects were followed for 16 years and had to go through clinical examination every two years. Information was gathered regarding their lifestyle, health behaviors, leisure time exercise, and the amount of time they took to walk between work and home.
The study found that those who walked longer had a lower risk of developing hypertension. Men who walked for 20 minutes or more reduced their risk of hypertension by 29 percent, while those who walked for just 10 minutes only had a 12 percent reduction.
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