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Brisk walking may reduce biological age by more than a decade

Many studies have shown us that walking provides physical and mental benefits. Yet, new research from the University of Leicester sought to determine if pace made a difference in health outcomes. Indeed, the study shows us that there is a link between how fast we walk and our biological age

The researchers analyzed 405,981 UK biobank genetic samples and found that people who walked faster had longer telomeres, which are used to determine biological age. This is because cells with shorter telomeres are correlated with frailty and age-related diseases. 

The experts used self-reported data, as well as data from wearable activity trackers, to determine the participants’ walking speeds. 

Based on the results, the researchers estimate that a lifetime of brisk walking could decrease an individual’s biological age by as much as 16 years by midlife.

“This research uses genetic data to provide stronger evidence for a causal link between faster walking pace and longer telomere length,” said study lead author Dr. Paddy Dempsey.

“Data from wrist-worn wearable activity tracking devices used to measure habitual physical activity also supported a stronger role of habitual activity intensity (e.g. faster walking) in relation to telomere length.”

The research is vital because it helps inform the general population and health officials on who may be more at risk.

“This suggests measures such as a habitually slower walking speed are a simple way of identifying people at greater risk of chronic disease or unhealthy ageing, and that activity intensity may play an important role in optimising interventions,” explained Dr. Dempsey.

Previous research has indicated that those who walk briskly for at least 10 minutes a day live longer, but this study is the first of its kind to reveal a specific marker – telomere length – associated with walking faster. This may ultimately help encourage healthy lifestyle changes. 

“For example, in addition to increasing overall walking, those who are able could aim to increase the number of steps completed in a given time (e.g. by walking faster to the bus stop). However, this requires further investigation,” concluded Dr. Dempsey.

This study is published in the journal Communications Biology.

By Erin Moody , Staff Writer

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