Want to Live Longer? Walk Faster: Study

New Australian research suggests that just speeding up your walking pace could help reduce your risk of death, especially for older adults and seniors.

Led by the University of Sydney along with researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Limerick, and University of Ulster, the new study set out to assess whether walking speed was associated with a reduced risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-causes.

The researchers looked at the results of 11 population-based surveys in England and Scotland which together included 50,225 participants who self-reported their walking pace.

After taking into account influencing factors such as total amount and intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index, the team found that walking at an average pace was associated with a 20 percent lower risk for all-cause mortality compared with walking at a slow pace.

Walking at a brisk or fast pace reduced the risk even further, by 24 percent.

Walking also helped reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, with walking at an average pace associated with a 24 percent reduced risk and walking at a brisk or fast pace with a 21 percent reduced risk when compared to slow walkers.

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In addition, walking was also found to have an even stronger protective effect in older age groups, with the team finding that participants over the age of 60 who walked at an average pace benefited from a 46 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, while those who walked at a fast pace had a 53 percent reduced risk.

However, the team found no evidence that walking pace influenced the risk of cancer mortality.

"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 lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.

"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 results can be found published online in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.