walking meeting

Walking Meeting: ‘How Fast is Fast Enough?’

Yesterday we noted that finding opportunities to exercise during the workday can be challenging, but it’s a key area of focus for well-run workplace wellness programs.

And one of the easier methods: Walking. In particular, the walking meeting.

But how fast does one need to walk to create real health benefits? And how many steps?

The New York Times reports that “a helpful new study of walking speed and health concludes that the answer seems to be about 100 steps per minute, a number that is probably lower than many of us might expect.”

The study is titled “How fast is fast enough? Walking cadence (steps/min) as a practical estimate of intensity in adults: a narrative review” and it’s published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

It states: “Cadence (steps/min) may be a reasonable proxy-indicator of ambulatory intensity. A summary of current evidence is needed for cadence-based metrics supporting benchmark (standard or point of reference) and threshold (minimums associated with desired outcomes) values that are informed by a systematic process.”

The objective: “To review how fast, in terms of cadence, is enough, with reference to crafting public health recommendations in adults.”

To do this “a comprehensive search strategy was conducted to identify relevant studies focused on walking cadence and intensity for adults. Identified studies included controlled, free-living observational and intervention designs.”

The results:

  • “There was a strong relationship between cadence (as measured by direct observation and objective assessments) and intensity (indirect calorimetry).”
  • “Despite acknowledged interindividual variability, ≥100 steps/min is a consistent heuristic (e.g, evidence-based, rounded) value associated with absolutely defined moderate intensity (3 metabolic equivalents (METs)). Epidemiological studies report notably low mean daily cadences (ie, 7.7 steps/min), shaped primarily by the very large proportion of time (13.5 hours/day) spent between zero and purposeful cadences (<60 steps/min) at the population level.”
  • “Published values for peak 1-min and 30-min cadences in healthy free-living adults are >100 and >70 steps/min, respectively. Peak cadence indicators are negatively associated with increased age and body mass index. Identified intervention studies used cadence to either prescribe and/or quantify ambulatory intensity but the evidence is best described as preliminary.”

The conclusion: “A cadence value of ≥100 steps/min in adults appears to be a consistent and reasonable heuristic answer to ’How fast is fast enough?’ during sustained and rhythmic ambulatory behaviour.”

This rate might be a bit brisk for many walking meetings, but it’s good information for workplace wellness programs — and perhaps useful for brainstorming walking meetings, in particular.