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Study finds that speeding up your walking rate could make you live longer

The effects were found to be more pronounced in older age groups.

Image: Shutterstock/Andrey Arkusha

WALKING FASTER MAY make you live longer according to new research.

Walking at an average pace has been found to be associated with a 20% risk reduction for all-cause mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk pace is better again.

The research found that walking at a fast pace is associated with an even higher risk reduction of 24%.

The effects were found to be more pronounced in older age groups. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% reduction.

The findings have been published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (from the BMJ Journals group) dedicated to Walking and Health.

The research was a collaboration between a number of universities, including the University of Limerick, the University of Ulster, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health.

The researchers sought to determine the associations between walking pace with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.

To do this they linked mortality records with the results of 11 population-based surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008 where people reported their walking pace. The team then adjusted for factors such as intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index.

Lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney said, “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.

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.

However he added that there was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality.

A fast pace is usually considered to be around five to seven kilometres an hour but it depends on a walker’s fitness levels, a speed that makes the walker slightly out of breath or sweaty is a good indication of what is a fast pace for them.

Stamatakis said, “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.

In light of the findings, the research team is calling for walking pace to be emphasised in public health messages.

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