“Do not run so fast,” people with a brisk walk often have to listen to. But as a new big data study from the UK shows, brisk walking is not only healthy, it also seems to have a rejuvenating effect!
Driving fast does not have the best reputation. People who walk fast often appear stressed and hurried from the outside. It does not make a particularly confident impression. But a new study from the UK sheds a completely different light on fast hikers. Anyone who whizzes through everyday life at high speed has a lower biological age than people who take it easy. As researchers report, a brisk walk is not only healthy but also keeps you young longer.
Up to 16 years lower biological age
There are already a number of studies reporting the positive effects of fast walking. People who walk healthy in everyday life are usually in better physical shape and have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.1.2 But not enough of that. A study from 2019 even showed that fast hikers have a life expectancy that is up to 20 years longer than strollers.3
Also interesting: The walking speed reveals how much you have grown older
Another large study has now been published, which revealed a new positive effect of fast walking in everyday life.4 Those who walk briskly may have a biological age that is up to 16 years lower in the middle part of life than those who walk slowly. If it is not a prayer for a faster gear.
The telomere length of the chromosomes determines the biological age
To find out the relationship between walking speed and biological age, researchers at the University of Leicester analyzed the genetic data from 405,981 middle-aged people. Data is from the UK Organic Database. The mean age of the subjects was 56.5 years, the mean BMI (Body Mass Index) was 27.2 and 54 percent were women.
Also interesting: Our biological age takes three leaps in the course of life
The researchers looked in particular at the so-called telomeres of leukocytes. Telomeres are the protective ends of chromosomes. They do not themselves carry any genetic information, but serve to protect the DNA. The biological age can be determined from the length of the telomeres. Because the longer the telomeres are, the younger you are – at least from a biological point of view. And so the biological age can be significantly lower than the chronological age.
The researchers then examined the walking pace people preferred. Most of the information about this came from the individuals themselves. To verify this data, about 86,000 of the study participants were given an activity meter that recorded their daily activities.
Fast walking has a rejuvenating effect
Just over half of the subjects indicated that they walked at an average pace. 6.6 percent reported walking slowly and 41.1 percent reported walking fast.
Subjects who indicated that they were fast walkers or had a moderate walking speed
- a little younger
- rarely smokes,
- took less blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medication,
- suffered less from chronic diseases,
- had fewer mobility problems.
Slow hikers, on the other hand, reported
- to move less
- and a greater tendency to be overweight.
Also interesting: The key to eternal youth? What prevents the muscles from aging
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that individuals who walked at a medium or high pace had longer telomeres and therefore a lower biological age. This was even up to 16 years below the biological age of the slow hikers. So if someone at the age of 50 claims to feel like 30, that may actually be true in some cases.
According to the researchers, it is not only a quick walk that results in longer telomeres and thus a lower biological age. Because the evaluation of the activity meter showed that in general more everyday activities with higher intensity are associated with longer telomeres. You do not have to become a fitness junkie right away. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day increases life expectancy, another study found.5 So brisk walking is certainly healthy and it has an unjustifiably bad reputation. So going forward it should be: “Do not go so slow”.
- 1. Manson JE, Hu FB, Frank B et al. (1999). A prospective study of gait compared to vigorous training in the prevention of coronary heart disease in women. New England Journal of Medicine.
- 2. Tanasescu, M., Leitzmann F., Rimm EB et al. (2002). Exercise type and intensity in relation to coronary heart disease in men. JAMA.
- 3. Zaccardi, F., Davies, MJ, Khunti, K. & Yates T. (2019). Comparative relevance of physical fitness and fat to life expectancy: a UK biobank observational study. Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
- 4. Dempsey PC, Musicha C, Rowlands AV et al. (2022). Examination of a British biobank cohort reveals causal relationships of self-reported walking pace with telomere length. nature.
- 5. Chudasama YV, Khunti KK, Zaccardi F. et al. (2019). Physical activity, multimorbidity and life expectancy: a UK biobank longitudinal study. BMC Medicine.