Pick Up the Pace: Walking Faster Could Help You Live Longer
If you’re already doing your 10,000 steps a day — or working your way up to it — a new study has a fresh challenge for you. Research by scientists at the University of Sydney has found that people over 30 who walk at an average or fast pace are more likely to live longer than those who stroll slowly.
Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study looked at data from a total of 50,225 participants in England and Scotland, who were interviewed in 11 separate surveys that took place over a period of 14 years. They were asked to self-report how often and how fast they walked, with 4-5 mph considered a fast pace. In an interview with the University of Sydney, lead author Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis explained, “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.” The interviewers also noted how much other physical activity participants took part in & whether it was light, moderate, or vigorous and factors like their BMI, sex, age, and existing medical conditions. Read on to discover what the research found.
1. An average pace was enough to make a difference. You don’t even have to get out of breath to have a positive impact. The study found that people who walked at an average pace had an all-cause mortality rate one-fifth less than those who walked slowly (meaning they were 20 percent less likely to die from any disease). Those who walked at a brisk or fast pace reduced their all-cause mortality rate by nearly a fourth. Average-pace walkers also benefited from a 24 percent reduction in their risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to slow walkers, while those who walked fast were 21 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than slow walkers. So as long as you’re not dawdling, you’re doing something for your health.
2. People over 60 saw the greatest risk reduction. The older the participant, the more pronounced the benefits of walking faster. Over-50s hitting an average pace had a 24 percent lower all-cause mortality rate than slow walkers in that age group; slow walkers saw their numbers improve by close to a third. The benefits were even clearer for the over-60s: Average-pace walkers from this group saw a 46 percent risk reduction for all-cause mortality, and it was reduced by 53 percent for fast walkers. The researchers suggested that this could be because walking fast gets harder the older you are, so hitting that speedy walking pace is the equivalent of doing moderate or vigorous activity for an older person. Similarly, people who reported a “light intensity” of physical activity every week but still hit a fast walking pace saw a steeper reduction in risk of all-cause mortality than people who were already doing moderate or vigorous exercise. (If you’re already doing a lot of intense physical activity every week, walking fast has less of an impact on your life expectancy.)
3. Fast walking was associated with some surprising traits. Of the people who self-reported a fast walking pace, about 28 percent were current smokers, as opposed to about 24 percent of the slow walkers. A fast pace was also associated with being male (nearly three in five), having a higher level of education, doing 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense activity a week, and drinking alcohol five days or more a week. In contrast, those who reported a slower pace were more likely to have a long-standing illness (about two-thirds), be experiencing psychological distress, and walk fewer days a week on average.
4. Walking at a faster pace was good for both men and women. It turns out men and women of all fabulous sizes can benefit from stepping out a little quicker. Although women and people with a high BMI were more likely to be slower walkers, the results found that when they did walk at an average or fast pace they were just as likely to experience a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
5. There was no notable impact on the risk of mortality from cancer. It wasn’t all good news: The study found that walking pace had no notable effect on cancer mortality rate. However, the researchers speculated that studying specific types could have shown a connection — particularly breast and colon cancer. Two studies presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology in 2017 looked at the impact of exercise on breast and colon cancer survival rates. The first study found that women with breast cancer who undertook a program of moderate exercise for eight months had better odds of survival and less chance of the disease spreading compared to those who were not specifically encouraged to exercise. (Most of the women chose walking as their activity.) The second study found that bowel cancer patients who exercised for 150 minutes a week, ate a healthy diet, and watched their alcohol intake were more likely to survive and remain cancer-free for longer than those who did not. Dr. Stamatakis’s team suggested that it might not be pace that impacts your cancer mortality rate but how long you walk for.
6. This could change future health guidelines. We already knew walking was good for us, both mentally and physically, but this study gives us something else to think about when we’re trying to get our step count up. It’s still early days, and the researchers admitted that they couldn’t yet prove whether faster walkers live longer because they’re already fit. But Dr. Stamatakis believes that the findings should be included in future health guidelines so that they emphasize not just distance but speed. He also suggested to the University of Sydney that the findings are good news for people who are too busy to squeeze in those distance goals: “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.” Instead of marching on the spot in your kitchen at 11:59pm, you’ll be racing around the grocery store on your lunch break!
Are you a fast walker? Let us know if you’ll be speeding up @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)
It can be intimidating to step out on your own and build a business from the ground up. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're talking with Selfmade alum and solopreneur Colette Lawrence, the faith-based motivator and relationship builder behind The M.E.E. Movement, about ways in which women in business can find success.
B + C: How did you know M.E.E. Movement was your business to start?
The M.E.E Movement represents motivation, empowerment, and encouragement for women. It is what represents me. I did not know at first that it was my business to start, but then the thought of monetizing what I loved came to me. It scared me, however. I registered the business in July 2020 and have been slowly building my wings since.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
Thinking through and researching what the requirements are to start my business, and then asking questions of people who are in the business. Not all advice worked; however, it helped me to figure out what I needed to do and not to do.
B + C: Did you always know life coaching would be your entrepreneurial path?
(Smiles) No, I did not. I 'stumbled" on it. I knew that people were always coming to me for advice and I found that I loved having conversations with them, especially with women, young and old.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
My most valuable takeaway was the first day of training: Get out of your own way. There were a lot of great moments and important takeaways from every presenter. However, getting out of my own way, pushing past doubts, was for me my most valuable takeaway. Doing something that I had never done before took courage. If I do not focus on what is happening with me mentally then I cannot deliver to my clients successfully.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Get out of your head. You have something to offer. You have what you need to succeed so go ahead and do it.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by listening to music and listening to motivational speakers, and sometimes someone will just reach out and talk about the impact that I made in their life. That adds the extra juice or sauce I need to pummel through the day.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip?
Keep a diary and journal. It's the best way for me to keep organized and it also provides a source motivation as I record not only my "losses" but my wins as well.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Shirley Toliver – She motivates and empowers and makes me always want to show up.
B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start or grow your business?
The scholarship was a blessing in that all the areas that were covered offered valuable information that I needed, from social media to HR. As a new business owner, I needed to know this to increase my own personal awareness in what it takes to run a successful business. The candidness of the presenters made it easy to see myself in their shoes and helped me to realize that I can also get there.
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