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Walking, even if it's less than recommended, can add years to a senior's life

A massive study has confirmed what many people already believed: Walking for older people, even less than the recommended guidelines, can add years to your life.

13-year study followed 140,000 people with an average age of 70

Longevity columnist Sharon Basaraba says a huge study confirms that some walking, even if it is less than the recommended guidelines, can add years to your life. (Joe Bryksa/Winnipeg Free Press)

A massive study has confirmed what many people already believed. Walking for older people, even less than the recommended guidelines, can add years to your life.

Longevity columnist Sharon Basaraba says the American Cancer Society study spent about 13 years following 140,000 men and women with an average age of 70 years old.

"When the researchers analyzed who survived and how much they walked, they found that even the people who were less active than the recommendations suggest still had a lower risk of death from any cause ... with the greatest benefits against respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer mortality, in that order," Basaraba told The Homestretch.

"People who walked the full recommended two-and-a-half hours a week had a 20 per cent lower risk of death from any cause during those 13 years."

Basaraba says experts have calculated some best practice guidelines for time spent walking weekly. It's about 150 minutes of moderately intense activity, or about 30 minutes five times a week, with about half that — 75 minutes a week — as a minimum.

But the research is discovering that a lot of adults aren't getting even the minimum, she said.

About half of all adults achieved the minimum, including about 40 per cent of people aged 65 to 74 and less than a third of people older than 75.

Walking is the perfect exercise, Sharon Basaraba says. (Twitter)

But Basaraba says even if you're not meeting the minimum, the act of walking is still extremely valuable.

"Even a little walking might help you live longer. It's been called a perfect exercise, it's easy, cheap, doesn't require special equipment and it doesn't even have to be fast walking. Most of the participants said they walked about four kilometres an hour," she said.

"Simple activities consistently done are pillars of a longevity lifestyle."

5 healthy habits can add up to 14 years

Another study out of Harvard University goes a bit deeper, Basaraba said.

"Sticking with five main habits over several decades could buy you more than an extra decade of life, 12 to 14 years," she said.

"Getting regular exercise like walking, eating healthy, keeping a normal weight, drinking only in moderation and not smoking."

Now that spring has finally arrived, you might be more motivated to go for a walk outside. According to new research, that walk could help extend your life. Even if you don't quite meet the recommended weekly exercise guidelines. For a look at how walking can keep you healthier and living longer, our longevity columnist Sharon Basaraba joined host Doug Dirks in studio. 7:41

With files from The Homestretch