To put these numbers into perspective, a person whose total daily steps include 2,400 to 3,000 that are brisk walking could see a sharp reduction in the risk for developing heart disease, cancer and dementia, even without taking many additional steps beyond the total daily number.

“It doesn’t have to be a consecutive 30-minute session,” said Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the University of Sydney and one of the authors of the studies. “It can just be in brief bursts here and there throughout your day.”

But the important thing is to aim for walking a little faster than your normal pace. When it comes to the differences between brisk walking and jogging, there wasn’t enough data to determine if one was better than another, and both resulted in better overall health outcomes than did a slower average pace. Still, a 2013 study followed 49,005 runners and walkers and suggested that brisk walking or jogging similar distances offer similar heart health benefits, though walking a mile takes longer.

This study is part of ongoing research into just how important exercise intensity is to various health outcomes. These latest findings suggest that maintaining good health doesn’t necessarily require a lot of high-intensity exercise and that a regular amount of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, can offer a high level of protection against developing conditions such as heart disease, cancer or dementia.

When it comes to incorporating more intense exercise into your daily life, Dr. Tamanna Singh, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, often reminds her patients that everything is relative. “Everybody is starting from a different training status,” she said.

A brisk pace for one person may not be brisk for another, but what matters is the relative effort. At a light exercise intensity, a person can sing a song, while at a moderate intensity, a person can easily carry a conversation but would struggle to sing. At higher intensities, conversation becomes difficult, if not impossible.