Oct. 19 (UPI) -- In the age of Fitbit, the Apple Watch and numerous apps that allow people to count steps -- with a daily goal of 10,000 steps, most of the time -- many may think walking is only beneficial if you meet certain step goals.
A new study, published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggests instead that regular walking, even without meeting minimum requirements, can lower a person's mortality risk when compared to being sedentary.
"Walking has been described as the 'perfect exercise' because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn't require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age," Dr. Alpa Patel, a researcher in the Intramural Research Department of the American Cancer Society, said in a news release.
Current guidelines recommend that adults have at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week, but around half of adults actually meet these guidelines.
For the study, researchers analyzed data on 140,000 older adult participants over age 65 in the Cancer-Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, with 95 percent of participants engaging in some walking and the rest reporting no moderate or vigorous activity.
Research showed that walking for less than two hours a week was linked to a lower mortality rate for all causes compared to being completely sedentary. Walking two and a half to five hours a week showed a 20 percent lower mortality risk.
Walking was also linked to specific types of lower mortality risks, for example, walking more than six hours a week was linked to a 35 percent lower mortality risk from respiratory disease.
Participants who walked as their only form of exercise had a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 9 percent lower risk of cancer deaths.
For older adults, walking even below the minimum recommended guidelines was associated with a lower risk of mortality compared to being completely inactive.
"With the near doubling of adults aged 65 and older expected by 2030, clinicians should encourage patients to walk even if less than the recommended amount, especially as they age, for health and longevity," Patel said.