If you've been walking regularly and are still gaining weight, you may be wondering what you're doing wrong. Have you considered your pace? Spending just 30 minutes every day walking can help prevent age-related weight gain, but you probably have to move at a decent clip, according to a recent Harvard study.

Researchers recorded the activity levels of approximately 18,500 women and found that women who walked briskly were less likely to gain more than five percent of their initial body weight after 16 years. In fact, for every 30-minute increase in brisk walking over the course of the study, women gained four fewer pounds on average.

However, for every 30-minute increase in slow walking—the pace of a leisurely evening stroll, for instance—women gained about one pound more than 5 percent of their initial weight. You'll know you've reached a moderate or brisk pace when you are unable to sing, for instance, but you can still carry on a conversation.

Consider mixing in bicycling on some days. The study showed bicycling to be equivalent to a brisk walk in preventing weight gain.

According to our sister publication REMEDY's Healthy Living (Summer 2015), the health benefits of a brisk walk can be immense. Walking not only can contribute to weight loss, but also help prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of falls, and lower stress levels.

To achieve the maximum health benefits from walking, aim for 150 minutes per week. You should be walking vigorously enough to reach your "target" heart rate, which is generally 60 to 80 percent of your maximal heart rate.

You can estimate your maximal heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. (For instance, if you are 60, your maximal heart rate would be 160 and your target heart rate zone would be between 96 and 128.) To measure your heart rate while walking, take your pulse at your wrist for 10 seconds and multiply the result by six.

Build up to reaching your target heart rate gradually: In general, you should not exert yourself so much that you're unable to talk normally.

Sources: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50; REMEDY's Healthy Living (Summer 2015); Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 06 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 18 May 2015