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Fast walkers have a higher life expectancy, new study says

Walking at a brisk pace is very beneficial. A new study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings says it can add 15 to 20 years to your life expectancy.

The study

Most of us who never leave home without a fitness tracker are well aware that 10,000 steps per day is the typical goal for a day’s activity. However, if you are struggling to meet that goal, there is no need to worry. For two reasons. The first, is that this is an arbitrary target which is not optimal for everyone. Second, taking fewer steps may still bring health benefits, especially if you walk at a brisk pace.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

A UK Biobank Observational Study looked at the impact of walking on longevity. What distinguishes this study from others is the large sample size. It totalled around 475,000 people with an average age of 52. They were recruited between March 2006 and July 2010 throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

Information on 12,823 deaths reported over a follow-up period was obtained from the NHS Information Centre (England and Wales) and the NHS Central Register (Scotland).

The results show that participants who reported walking at a brisk pace were biologically younger, with lower BMI, body fat percentage and waist circumference. A similar correlation was also found with those who showed higher handgrip strength.

Whats more, life expectancies averaging up to 15 to 20 years could be seen across all categories of BMI. The opposite was also true. Subjects reporting slow walking pace had shorter life expectancies.

.”…the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than BMI and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives,” said lead author and professor Tom Yates with the University of Leicester.

What this means for you

A couple of months ago the US Government updated its official Physical Activity Guidelines. The document states we are supposed to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week. The guidelines have changed in the sense that they now integrate the importance of sitting less and moving more.

The previous Physical Activity Guidelines only took into account 10+ minutes bouts of physical activity towards your daily goal. The duration has now been disregarded.

This is because any physical activity is better than none. And when it comes to steps typically more is better than less – you want to spend as little time not moving as possible. Now we’ve learned that walking faster is better than walking slower. All of this within reason, of course.

“Studies published so far have mainly shown the impact of body weight and physical fitness on mortality in terms of relative risk,” co-author of the study Francesco Zaccardi, a clinical epidemiologist at the Leicester Diabetes Center, said in a statement.

“However, it is not always easy to interpret a ‘relative risk.’ Reporting in terms of life expectancy, conversely, is easier to interpret and gives a better idea of the separate and joint importance of body mass index and physical fitness.”

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