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This 7-Minute Walking Trick Could Add Years to Your Life, Says Study

A study of more than 90,000 people shows the outsize benefits of regularly taking a 7-minute fast walk.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

If you love exercising and enjoy the latest fitness trends, you're well aware of the fact that we're living in—at least for the moment—a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) world. After all, it wasn't that long ago when you needed to be a military cadet to know how to properly perform a burpee. Today, it's all about banging out more moves in less time—quick sprinting intervals, lightning-fast 5-minute workouts, and Peloton-style spinning classes where you pedal to your max for short periods of time to get your heart rate soaring through the roof.

But as old fashioned as it sounds, walking remains the single most common form of exercise you'll find on this planet. According to the latest statistics, there are 111 million exercise walkers in the United States. And let's be clear: This is a good thing. (For more on why, see here for What Happens to Your Body When You Walk More, Says Science.)

However, if you're among the fitness-walking masses, there's at least one simple trick you can do—taking the central tenet of HIIT and applying it to your own daily strolls—which will help you get way more out of your walks. What's more, according to a major study, you'll be drastically reducing your risk of death. Read on for more, and for more exercise advice for living longer, see here for The One Exercise That's Best for Beating Back Alzheimer's, Says Doctor.

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Why You Should Replace Your Leisurely Stroll with a Brisk Walk

Slim sporty young girl walking on street

Last year, researchers from Cambridge University released their findings from a big study, which analyzed data from more than 90,000 people who wore fitness trackers for more than two years, in the journal The Lancet Global Health. At the end of their research, the team was able to link their death risk to the intensity of their physical activity.

Ultimately, they found that for people who don't exercise often or at all, the act of doing a 7-minute brisk walk instead of a 12-minute leisurely stroll could potentially reduce their death risk by one-third. (Also, they found that "at least 3.9 million" deaths could be saved across the planet every year if people were more physically active.)

It's just the latest compelling evidence for speeding up your walks. And for more great workout advice, see why Science Says This Is the Single Best Abs Exercise You Can Do.

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Brisk Walking Also Keeps You Sharper

older woman on a brisk walk

Another study, which focused on cognitively impaired, older adults—which was published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease—found that taking brisk, half-hour walks promotes healthy blood flow to the brain and improves cognitive performance while boosting memory function.

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How Do You Know If You're Walking Fast Enough?

Woman exercise walking outdoors, shoes closeup

According to Harvard Medical School, the best way to know that you're walking fast enough is to reference the "Perceived Exertion Scale," which uses your breath and your ability to talk as a reference points for intensity. According to the scale, the perfect definition of a "brisk walk" is "when breathing becomes heavier" and "talking becomes difficult." If you can sing, you're walking too slowly. If you're experiencing "labored breathing" and you can't talk at all, you've ventured into "vigorous" exercises. For more on this scale, check out The Secret Trick for Walking for Exercise, Says Harvard.

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Here's a Great Walking Workout to Try Today

walking on treadmill
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Courtesy of Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, an exercise physiologist and author of The Micro-Workout Plan: Get the Body You Want without the Gym in 15 Minutes or Less a Day, here is a great half-hour walking workout that you can try today:

The Warmup: "Walk at an easy pace for 10 minutes to get your body loose and comfortable." The Power Intervals: "For 30 seconds, do a hard power walk—walking for as fast as you can. Immediately afterward, slow back down to an easy walk for recovery. Repeat this cycle 9 more times." The Cool Down: "Walk at an easy pace for 10 minutes." And for more great exercises to try, see here to learn about the 3 Workouts Proven to Change Your Body Shape.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more
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