Study Suggests Walking Doesn't Help Menopausal Women's Muscle Strength, Balance, Agility

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • In the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about walking 10,000 steps daily to maintain fitness. But Reuter’s Health is reporting on a new study that suggests that those extra steps may not be as beneficial for middle-age women as we've come to think.


    This study out of the University of Quebec in Montreal analyzed the walking habits of 57 women who were between the ages of 50 and 70. The researchers measured the participant’s weight, fat, muscle mass, muscle strength, balance and functional skills. These women were split into three groups – those who walked less than 7,500 steps a day; those who walked between 7,500-10,000 steps a day; and those who walked more than 10,000 steps a day.

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    Researchers found that women who walked more than 10,000 steps a day didn’t have greater muscle strength, balance or agility than their counterparts who walked less than 7,500 steps. However, the women who walked the most did have favorable results as far as body fat, weight and endurance. The study did not look at the quality or the intensity of these walks. Furthermore, this study is very small, so that needs to be taken into account. I hope that a larger study can look at all of these factors.

     

    I do agree with lead researcher Dr. Mylene Aubertin-Leheudre, who suggested that part of the issue with balance and physical ability may be due to middle-age women’s walking skills. She explained, “I always see the postmenopausal women in my study sliding more than walking.”

     

    So perhaps it's time to review the type of posture that women should aim to have when walking. Wendy Bumgardner provides multiple tips about walking posture on About.com. Some of these tips include:

    • Stand up straight when you are walking. Don’t lean forward or backward since this will strain your back muscles.
    • Don’t arch your back; instead, remain tall and straight.
    • Keep your eyes looking forward approximately 20 feet.
    • Keep your chin up so that it’s parallel to the ground in order to reduce neck and back strain.
    • Keep your shoulders slightly back and relaxed.
    • Keep your abdominal muscles contracted (which will help protect your back).
    • Tuck in your posterior and rotate your hip forward slightly in order to keep from arching your back.
    • Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and don’t clinch your fists or pump your arms high.
    • Your heel should strike the ground first and your foot should then roll through the step to your toe. Then push off with your toe.

    While taking walks using proper form can be really good for you, I believe it should be just part of an exercise plan that includes strength and flexibility training. And the good news about walking is that it’s low impact, is believed to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and can be done without a lot of extra equipment (although make sure that you have good walking shoes instead of those well-advertised “toning shoes”).


    For those of you wanting to start a walking program in the new year, The Mayo Clinic has recommended a 12-week walking schedule created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This program, which should be done at least five times a week and (as you become more fit) include a strength training regimen, is as follows:

    • Week 1 – Five-minute slow warm-up walk, five-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 2 – Five-minute warm-up, seven-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 3 – Five-minute slow warm-up walk, nine-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 4 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 11-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 5 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 13-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 6 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 15-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week  7 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 18-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week  8 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 20-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 9 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 23-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 10 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 26-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 11 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 28-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.
    • Week 12 - Five-minute slow warm-up walk, 30-minute brisk walk, five-minute slower-paced cool-down walk.

    Happy (walking) trails!

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Published On: December 20, 2011