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Walking a Little Faster May Add Years to Your Life

Brisk walkers, rejoice! While some folks may complain that you walk too quickly, you’ll be happy to know that science is on your side. New research suggests that fast walkers live longer than those who walk at a slower pace.

A May 2019 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings — which used health data from 474,919 people in the UK — found that people who have a fast walking pace had a longer life expectancy than those with a slower gait. This included folks across all levels of body weight from underweight to obese. These longer life expectancies ranged from 86.7 to 87.8 years in women and 85.2 to 86.8 years in men. Meanwhile, underweight people with a slow walking pace had the lowest life expectancy  — an average of 64.8 years for men and 72.4 years for women. Interestingly enough, this is the first time research has linked a fast walking pace with a longer life expectancy, regardless of a person’s weight.

“Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals,” said lead author Tom Yates, PhD, in a press release. “In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.”

It may be especially important for those of us in middle age to speed it up while we’re on a stroll. Last year, Dr. Yates and his team found that middle-aged people who reported being slow walkers were at higher risk of heart disease compared to the general population. 

While “fast walking” may subjectively mean different things to different people, most fitness experts consider brisk walking to be about 100 steps per minute or 3 to 3.5 miles per hour. So if you’re looking to make fast walking a part of your everyday routine, that’s probably a good rule of thumb to follow.

There’s never been a better time to pick up the pace!

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