A study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta study shows that walking alone may not be as beneficial as exercise as earlier believed.
Dr Vicki Harber, lead author on the Health First study, recently presented his research work at the American College of Sports Medicine annual conference, where she expressed concern that people are often asked to increase the volume of activity such as walking, but hardly anyone stresses the need for those other activities that should be undertaken along with it to derive health benefits.
"Generally, low-intensity activity such as walking alone is not likely going to give anybody marked health benefits compared to programs that occasionally elevate the intensity," she said.
For the study, Dr Harber and her colleagues divided 128 sedentary men and women into two groups. While one group was put to a pedometer-friendly 10,000-step exercise program providing them with treadmills and stationary bicycles, the other group was put to the traditional fitness program involving exercise at a moderate intensity, a level allowing for one or two sentences of conversation with ease.
They found that the subjects of second group fared better than those put on 10,000-step lifestyle program on aerobic fitness, and reduced systolic blood pressure.
"When we matched the two programs for energy expenditure, we found that the traditional fitness program improved aerobic fitness and reduced systolic blood pressure, more than the 10,000-step lifestyle program," Dr Harber said.
Dr Harber said that amongst the subjects who completed the six-month research program, those who took part in a more active traditional fitness regimen increased their peak oxygen uptake, an indicator of aerobic fitness, by 10 per cent. Those who took part in the walking program experienced a four per cent increase.
Systolic blood pressure also dropped by 10 per cent for the traditional fitness group, compared to four per cent for the group who just walked.
However, other markers of overall health, such as fasting plasma glucose levels, response to a two-hour glucose tolerance test and various blood lipids were unaffected by either exercise program.
Dr Harber suggests that the 10,000-step walking programs are good for those who are motivating, and provide an excellent starting point for beginning an activity program, but to increase the effectiveness, one must add some intensity or "huff and puff" to their exercise."You have got to do more than light exercise and move towards the inclusion of regular moderate activity, and don't be shy to interject an occasional period of time at the vigorous level," she says.