Take a Walk for Health

Did you know that walking just 21 minutes each day can shrink your risk of heart disease by 30%?

For most people, walking is a low risk activity that is highly accessible and very easy to start. All that is required is a good pair of walking shoes, comfortable clothing and water to keep you hydrated.

Countries such as Canada, USA and UK agree on the physical activity guidelines in which adults aged 18-64 years should aim for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week in sessions of 10 minutes or more. A gradual progression of exercise frequency, time and intensity is recommended for least risk of injury and best adherence.

Take a moment to think about the past 7 days to see if you met this recommendation.

If you’re like most people, you did not. In fact, only about 15% of Canadian adults and 21% of American adults are meeting these current guidelines. In the UK, about 60% of adults are meeting the recommendations. However, this is based on self-reported data which is known to lead to inaccuracies.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, why not?

There is an extensive amount of scientific research that proves physical activity is beneficial for our health. The evidence shows a clear relationship between the volume of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity and increased health benefits. In simple terms, more physical activity = more health benefits.

Being active for at least 150 minutes per week helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity and type 2 diabetes to name a few. It also improves cardiovascular endurance, bone strength, fitness, oxygen flow through the body, strength and function of the heart and mental health such as self-esteem. It can provide an energy level boost and reduce the negative effects of sitting which can make you more productive and happier at work or school. The health benefits list can go on but hopefully this was enough to convince you to start walking today.

If the thought of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity frightens you, start with integrating small amounts of walking throughout your day.
Here are some strategies to help:

  • Keep walking shoes in your car or bag so you can take a walk whenever you have extra time such as being early for an appointment or during a lunch break.
  • Go for walks with friends instead of coffee or lunch.
  • Walk multiple routes and explore different locations. More options can increase the number of walks.
  • Park your car only once and walk between stores within the same shopping plaza even if you have to return to your car to drop off items in between.
  • Use a personal activity log to track your walks to motivate you to reach the minimum 150 minutes per week.

If you’re already doing some light walking throughout your day and want to change your intensity, you might be wondering how to measure this. Keep in mind that you should aim for a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.

For those that think in terms of km/hour, moderate-intensity activity is classified as 4.8 to 7.2 km/h (brisk walking) whereas vigorous-intensity activity is 8 km/h or more (jogging/running).

A quick way to determine your intensity is by doing the breathing rate talk test. For light intensity, you can talk easily. For moderate intensity, you can say short sentences. For vigorous intensity, you are only able to say 1-2 words before you must pause to take a breath.


Intensity % MHR
Very light < 35
Light 35 – 50
Moderate 50 – 70
Vigorous (Hard) 70 – 85
Very Hard > 85
Maximum 100

Another way to measure intensity is using the % of age-predicted maximum heart rate (APMHR) method. First you must calculate your APMHR using the formula 220 – age. For example, 220 – 20 (age) = 200. Next, we want to determine the target heart rate range which is also called the exercise intensity “training zone”. If we take the previous APMHR of 200 and apply the vigorous range of 70-85% range, we get 200 x 70% = 140 beats per minute (bpm) and 200 x 85% = 170 bpm. Therefore, a 20 year old will need to remain within a target heart rate range of 140-170 bpm to be working out vigorously.

For information on walking technique and posture, Ace Fitness has outlined 9 helpful tips.

It’s not too late to start walking today, take a walk for health!