By Aparna Mele, MD
A recent study of nearly half a million people concludes that walking at breakneck speed might increase life expectancy.
Recently, researchers linked a spring in your step to the number of years between birth and death. In the study, researchers took self-reported walking speeds and body mass indexes (BMI) of nearly 475,000 participants, and followed up with them for nearly seven years and discovered that fast walkers who were underweight, obese, and every other weight status in between all lived longer than slow walkers, who saunter, stroll, dawdle, or meander. According to the National Institute for Health Research, of all the population groups who were surveyed, the underweight, leisurely walkers lived the fewest years on average (64.8 years for men, 72.4 years for women). In fact, women who walked briskly, at over 4 mph, could enjoy a life-expectancy boost of up to 15 years longer than those who walked at less than 3 mph.
Heightened cardio health may explain why brisk walkers seem to have longer life expectancies than slow walkers. Still, this study marks the first piece of research linking fast walking to longevity regardless of weight, and researchers believe they’re even closer to understanding physical indicators of life expectancy that extend beyond just body mass index (BMI). These findings suggest that physical fitness might be a far superior indicator of life expectancy than BMI, and encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.
Before you lace up your sneakers and get moving, it’s important to focus first on good form. Turning your normal saunter into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Look straight ahead; relax your neck, shoulders, and back; pump your arms; engage your abs, and always walk from the heel to the toe. So get out there and pick up your pace for longevity!
Comparative Relevance of Physical Fitness and Adiposity on Life Expectancy. Zaccardi, Francesco et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 94, Issue 6, 985 – 994