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Does it matter how fast you walk?

Do you need to walk at super speed in order to reap the many benefits that walking offers? The key to unlocking the benefits of walking lies in how often you walk, not how fast. Studies continue to show that walking has a significant impact on health, such as lowering the incidence of stroke, and warding off depression.

In a meta-analysis of 30 studies conducted over 26 years, University of Toronto researchers found that even low levels of physical activity - such as walking or gardening for 20 to 30 minutes a day - can reduce depression in people of all age groups.

A new British study indicates that walking speed does not have to be "brisk" to have an impact on health outcomes relative to stroke. This study evaluated 3500 men in the UK aged 60 to 80, tracking the distance walked each week. Older men in the study were shown to reduce their risk of stroke commensurate with the number of hours they walked daily, independent of walking speed.

Over this 10 year period, men who walked 8 to 14 hours a week had a 33% lower incidence of stroke than men who only walked up to 3 hours per week. Men who walked more then 22 hours per week reduced their risk by 66%.