The beneficial effect of a twelve-minute walk

The beneficial effect of a twelve-minute walk

Walking makes you happier, smarter, and kinder, but sometimes there are days when we don’t have time to walk. This article explains how a 12-minute walk a day is enough for your health.


We all have days when we don’t have time to walk. In the weeks following my father’s sudden death from a heart attack, I was either extremely busy or utterly exhausted, and the thought of going for a walk seemed absurd and unrealistic. But it is important that during these times when we are completely absorbed by all the indoor bustle and emotional fatigue, we still keep moving.

Grief changes the body, just like stress. It causes inflammation, reduces our immunity and increases the risk of heart problems. While I was grieving, collapsing, and feverishly arranging everything—a deadly mix of activity and inactivity—a survey from Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States landed in my inbox, prompting me to briefly outside, for a (very short) walk.

Research: 12-minute walk

The beneficial effect of a twelve-minute walk

The study indicated that I did not have to walk for hours. Twelve minutes was enough for a major impact on my health. The hospital researchers studied 411 middle-aged men and women and measured the levels of 588 different metabolites in their blood. By measuring this before and after exercise, also known as ‘metabolic profiling’, the researchers were able to determine how exercise affects each metabolite and how much exercise is needed for the changes to occur.

Metabolites are small molecules that indicate how well (or not) our bodies are functioning and how effectively our cells repair themselves. Doctors use metabolites as biological markers against which they measure, among other things, what is happening in us and how our metabolism and the health of our heart are doing.


The researchers found that more than 80 percent of these very telling biomarkers change positively after a brisk walk of 12 minutes. One of the 502 altered metabolites is glutamine. Everybody has glutamine, which is released by the brain when we are dealing with stress and toxins to the body.

Too much-circulating glutamine is a biomarker for heart disease, diabetes, and a shorter lifespan. Excessive glutamine has been linked to a degree of poverty in specific types of brain cells, suggesting that glutamine may play a role in brain shrinkage.

The researchers found that 12 minutes of exercise lowered glutamine levels by an average of 29 percent. The average level of another metabolite, which has been linked to liver disease and diabetes, decreased by 18 percent and a metabolite known to help break down fat stores rose by 33 percent.

“What struck us most,” wrote researcher Gregory Lewis in the journal Men’s Health, “were the effects such a short walk can have on levels of the circulating metabolites that regulate such important bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity.” , inflammation and longevity.’

Lewis is also chief of the heart failure unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, which made me more than interested. Besides the fact that my father had just died suddenly of a heart attack, during sleepless nights I myself felt such an oppressive pain in my chest that I sometimes thought that I was also about to have a heart attack.


The beneficial effect of a twelve-minute walk

It seemed to me that a daily walk is essential for people who are trapped in heartbreaking grief. So I set out to go outside and put aside the mountain of paperwork and my hankering for the couch.

One thing was still important. According to the survey, my walk should be “energetic” or “intensive,” not a pleasant walk. Walking briskly uphill, so that the heart rate picks up and you get a little breathless and start sweating, would be ideal. I found a twelve-minute run and ran it every day as fast as I could. Within a week, the nighttime pain in my chest had disappeared and my grief had turned into something less physically debilitating.

Tips for the walk

Not sure what is meant by ‘firm’? Assume 100 steps per minute. Set the timer on your phone to 60 seconds and count your steps until you reach 100. If the timer goes off before you reach 100, you have to walk (slightly) faster.

Can’t run fast? Then, work on your speed by doing short stretches that accelerate your stride (Michele Stanten, a Harvard fitness expert, recommends 15, 30, or 60-second stretches) and then resume walking at your normal pace for 1 to 2 minutes. Keep repeating this. If you walk in the right stride, you will be able to run faster and more easily.

Plan a 12-minute walk from your home so that – especially on very busy days – you don’t have to think about anything and just put on your running shoes.

Everyone has twelve minutes left. If your day is busy, consider a short, brisk night walk or a brisk walk before breakfast. Grief and grief are exhausting. My first walks were actually not that brisk, but in my experience, my heart rate couldn’t get any higher. Start as slow as you want…


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