A new study finds a significant difference in life expectancy correlated to walking speed, across all levels of BMIs.
Researchers looking at data from the UK Biobank of 474,919 people found that those who walked faster had longer life expectancies. Now this on its own might not come as much of a surprise; faster walkers might have lower Body Mass Index (BMI), which is usually associated with better health. But here's the catch: Participants reporting brisk walking pace had longer life expectancies across all levels of BMIs. And in fact, slower walkers with BMIs in the underweight range had the shortest life expectancies of all.
The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, is the first to associate a brisk walking pace with a longer life expectancy regardless of a person's body weight.The median age of the participants in the prospective cohort study used for the analyses was 58.2 years, with an average BMI of 26.7, which is considered overweight.
The data showed that those with a self-reported brisk walking pace had longer life expectancies across all BMIs, ranging from 86.7 to 87.8 years for women and 85.2 to 86.8 years for men.
Those with a self-reported slow walking pace had shorter life expectancies. Remarkably, the lowest life expectancies were observed in slow walkers with a BMI less than 20 (which is considered underweight). For those participants, women's life expectancy dropped to 72.4 years, and men to 64.8 years. That's a very significant difference.
Professor Tom Yates, professor of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health at the University of Leicester and a lead author of the study, said:
"Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals. In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives."
And we'll reiterate that last point: Engaging in brisk walking may add years to one's life. You can do so by increasing the frequency of your steps or increasing the length of them.
We won't say that you should always walk so fast that don't enjoy the journey; but really, this is a win-win: Drive less, get out of the car, commute by foot and walk your errands whenever you can, and embrace the pleasures of a brisk pace ... not to mention a cleaner planet and a longer life.
You can see the whole study here: Comparative Relevance of Physical Fitness and Adiposity on Life Expectancy