Walking faster can actually increase the length of your life
Researchers at the University of Sydney have found that walking faster comes along with some potentially life-saving benefits. The risk of all-cause mortality was reduced by 20 percent in people who reported walking at an average pace, while the risk was lowered by 24 percent among those who kept a fast pace.
The researchers also investigated the effect of walking speeds on heart health, and found that the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality can be reduced by up to 24 percent as well – simply by walking faster.
The health advantages of picking up the pace while walking were found to be the most pronounced in older adults aged 60 and over. Older individuals who walked at an average pace had a 46 percent reduction in the risk of fatal cardiovascular causes. Among fast walkers, the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 53 percent.
“A fast pace is generally five to seven kilometers per hour, but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels; an alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained,” explained study lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.
The research team used data from 11 surveys in England and Scotland conducted between 1994 and 2008, in which participants self-reported their walking pace. They linked mortality records with these results, while adjusting for factors such as age, sex, and body mass index.
“Walking pace is associated with all-cause mortality risk, but its specific role – independent from the total physical activity a person undertakes – has received little attention until now,” said Professor Stamatakis.
“While sex and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality however.”
According to the researchers, the study findings highlight a need for emphasis on walking pace in public health messages.
“Separating the effect of one specific aspect of physical activity and understanding its potentially causal association with risk of premature death is complex,” said Professor Stamatakis.
“Assuming our results reflect cause and effect, these analyses suggest that increasing walking pace may be a straightforward way for people to improve heart health and risk for premature mortality – providing a simple message for public health campaigns to promote.”
“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up – one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives.”
The research is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.