These Boots are made for walkin’

back view of retired multicultural pensioners in sportswear walking in walkway in park

Walking is one of the most satisfying physical activities that exist in the world. Let’s use some testimonials as a starting point. These are reports of some Londoners about Walking, speaking to TFL (Transports for London) research about elderly levels of activity. (1)

  • “Walking is a celebration of your health and ability to get out” Frances, 69yrs
  • “I love the city, the buildings are fascinating, the people are fascinating.” Barbara, 72yrs
  • “When you are walking, you look at the trees, in the winter they are naked and as the months go on and each day, they come out more and more. It’s lovely.” Frank, 81yrs
  • “When you are walking, it gives you a chance to discover a new street, a new place. You don’t get that on a bus. That sense of discovery.” John 76yrs

There is no doubt that there are multiple factors that can motivate one to go for a walk. Related to Walking, older people associate this activity with: Feeling of freedom and independence; Sense of routine and habit; Seeing new and interesting places; Boosting social connections; Keeping fit and active. (1)

I will talk a little bit more about the last point. If you are the kind of person that does not walk that much and have a sedentary lifestyle, it is strongly recommended you think about this matter seriously. Walking at a pace of 3– 5 m/h (5–8 km/h) expends sufficient energy to be classified as moderate-intensity and is an easy and accessible way of meeting physical activity recommendations. (6) The good news here: you can start as you wish in terms of distance and intensity… the important thing is to get started. To get some done is better than none. To improve from nothing to 1000 steps or from few is the start of some considerable positive changes in our body. (2)

So, since I talked about the number of steps before, let’s use some facts here. Based on the current scientific evidence, how many steps per day are enough? Well, that depends on each individual, but for healthy adults, these are the overall goals: (3)

  • <5000 steps per day – Sedentary lifestyle
  • 5000–7499 steps per day – Low active
  • 7500 – 9999 steps per day Somehow active
  • ≥10 000 steps per day – Active
  • >12 500 steps per day – Highly active

There are associations with long walkers and different health benefits. A study in the United States found that a greater number of daily steps was significantly associated with lower all-cause mortality. (4) If you, do it in a group, it can have even better outcomes since walking groups are effective and safe with good adherence and wide-ranging health benefits. (5) Another type of exercise prescription could be green space exposure while walking. Andy Jones and Caoimhe Twohig-Bennet found some results that are indicative of a beneficial influence of greenspace on a wide range of health factors. (7)

Although I prefer high-intensity exercise and they are also recommended in terms of health issues, walking could be a huge improvement in your life, no matter what age you have. There are no magic recipes: exercise and physical activity should be adapted and personalized for each person. If you are looking for someone to help you with this, it is suggested to visit your Physiotherapist. Together with them, you should build a long-term program designed for your goals and based on your preference. One thing is guaranteed, Frank Sinatra was right: Those boots were made for walkin’

Author: João Pereira Physiotherapist at CMM – Brentford.
24/12/2021

  1. TFL, 2016. Older Londoners’ perceptions of London streets and the public realm.
  2. Kaleth, Anthony S.; Slaven, James E.; Ang, Dennis C. (2014). Does Increasing Steps Per Day Predict Improvement in Physical Function and Pain Interference in Adults With Fibromyalgia?. Arthritis Care & Research,
  3. Tudor-Locke, C. ; Bassett Jr, D. (2012)- How Many Steps/Day Are Enough?
  4. Saint-Maurice, Pedro F.; Troiano, Richard P.; Bassett, David R.; Graubard, Barry I.; Carlson, Susan A.; Shiroma, Eric J.; Fulton, Janet E.; Matthews, Charles E. (2020). Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among US Adults.
  5. Hanson, Sarah; Jones, Andy (2015). Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
  6. Scotland Chief Medical Officers of England (Wales, and Northern Ireland), & Bull, F. (2011). Start active, stay active: A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ chief medical officers. Department of Health
  7. Twohig-Bennett, Caoimhe; Jones, Andy (2018). The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research.

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