Which is better for middle age and elderly people’s health: interval walking or 10,000 casual steps a day?
What is interval walking?
This involves alternating brief periods of intense or challenging walking with periods of slower paced or recovery walking.
What is the 10,000 steps a day approach?
No matter where or why a person takes steps throughout their waking hours, they are tallied from the time they get out of bed by a pedometer that’s worn at the waist to track hip movement.
The goal is to achieve 10,000 steps by bedtime.
A study pitted interval walking against the 10,000 steps a day approach and found that interval walking is more effective for middle age and elderly people as far as reducing cardiovascular disease.
In other words, you should not place much stock in what 10,000 mere pitter-patters a day can do for your health.
Intensity over a short time beats out a ton of steps over an entire day.
Exactly how is interval walking done?
Even older people who already have heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes will benefit.
The study, headed by Dr. Shizue Masuki of Shinshu University, explains that walking at 70% of one’s maximum capacity for THREE MINUTES, alternating with a pace at 40% their capacity for three minutes, will get the job done.
This is repeated at least four more times. Now before you wonder how in the world can one know what percent capacity they’re at, I recommend the “rating of perceived exertion” scale.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 means how you’d feel when soaking in a bathtub. And 10 would be how you’d feel trying to outrun a Doberman trying to bite at your legs.
A level 7 would relate to 70% capacity: You’d feel quite challenged and would not want to carry on a conversation during this time.
A level 4, or 40%, would feel like a recovery from level 7, and you’d be able to converse, yet at the same time, you’d feel as though your body was in the exercise range of walking.
How was the study done?
With Internet technology, Dr. Masuki tracked 679 adults with an average age of 65 over five months.
The participants wore a triaxial accelerometer that beeped when they reached at least 70% aerobic capacity.
It then beeped at the three minute mark to switch to recovery walking.
How much time per week should older people interval walk?
The study showed that 50 minutes per week was sufficient for cardiovascular benefits and improvement in the ability to utilize oxygen during activity.
Where to Do Interval Walking
Do it outdoors on a sidewalk, trail or school track, or, do it on a treadmill.
If you use a treadmill do not hold on other than to momentarily steady yourself. Outside of that, your arms should be swinging naturally in synch with your lower body.
Here are reasons older people should not hold onto a treadmill.
Should you abandon 10,000 daily steps altogether?
If you want to do both interval walking and accumulating 10,000 steps, that’s fine.
In fact, doing 50 minutes a week of interval walking does not excuse you from spending excessive amounts of time in a chair.
If both approaches work for you, then do them. If you want to choose only one, then choose interval walking.
However, again, getting in many steps a day strongly helps opposes the “sitting disease.”
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.