Faster walking increases longevity

By Sheryl Kay • Published: June 27th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Everyone knows that walking does your body good. But it may put a little more pep in your step if you knew that brisk walkers have a longer life expectancy than those who walk slower.

In fact, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have discovered that among senior citizens, those who walk faster actually do seem to live longer.

Recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the investigation pooled data from nine large studies that tracked the medical history, survival rate, sex, age and walking speed of more than thirty four-thousand seniors. At the beginning of each study, the subjects were timed at their typical relaxed walking speed, and then periodically retested for the next two decades.

More than gender or age, a person’s walking speed actually turned out to be the more accurate predictor of life expectancy. Researchers found that those who consistently walked about two-and-a-quarter miles per hour or faster lived longer than others of their age and sex who walked more slowly. Those who walked just under two miles per hour had an average life expectancy. The findings were especially accurate for those over seventy-five.

Like testing blood pressure, measuring walking speed might help doctors better assess their patients, too.

But while investigators believe that measuring people’s walking speeds may have several great health applications, they do warn people not to increase their walking speeds in the hope of achieving a longer life. The speed at which one walks, they said, is innate, and more of an indicator of longevity than a way to boost it. Increasing how quickly you stroll through the park will not guarantee that you’ll see many birthdays to come.