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Workouts can be a literal walk in the park, according to the best scientific research ever


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Photo: Stocksy/Jesse Morrow

After grinding away at your desk for nine hours straight, going on a post-work walk (especially with your canine bestie) can be a great way to shake off the day and get in some exercise. If you’re anything like me, though, there’s always a nagging voice in the back of your mind wondering whether the mind-clearing steps actually count as a workout. Well, according to one recent study, the simple answer is yes, you can count the outing as a sweat sesh—as long as you meet the speed limit, that is.

For the report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers compiled 38 recent studies that included data on participants’ walking speed, heart rate and respiration, age, and BMI so that they could compare the information and find correlations between walking practices and health. Their results pinpointed that 100 steps per minute (or 2.7 miles per hour) is the magic minimum for your walk cadence to reach moderate-intensity exercise—AKA activity that gets your heart rate up by 50 to 70 percent. Break it down, and that comes to about 1.7 steps a second. Sounds like a pretty crushable goal, right?

Results showed that 100 steps per minute is the magic minimum for your walk cadence to reach moderate-intensity exercise—AKA activity that gets your heart rate up by 50 to 70 percent.

That rate is a safe bet for anyone younger than 60, as study co-author Catrine Tudor-Locke, PhD, tells The New York Times. But since the current federal recommendation for exercise is a half hour every day, note that you need to set a goal time, just as you would for a marathon, to ensure you clock in 3,000 steps or more in that time period. If the strict guideline is making your heart race already, have no fear, because Dr. Tudor-Locke says “this pace will probably not feel strenuous to most healthy people.”

To kick up your intensity a notch, the researchers say you should increase your minute rate to 130 steps in order for your workouts to officially count as “vigorous.” But if after a particularly grueling day, you’d rather keep it simple and low-key, clocking 100 steps per minute will still do good for your body. So a solid workout can actually be a walk in the park.

If you’re wondering how long your runs should be, this is a useful guide. And here’s why the 10,000-steps-a-day paradigm isn’t effective for boosting your metabolism.

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