Not all people walk at the same pace. Elderly and disabled people are not able to simply ‘hurry up’ when it fits the whims of others. But for those of you who walk faster than the average person, there is good news!
Are you one of those people who are constantly asked to slow down when you walk with other people? When walking in a group, do you always end up at the front of the pack, only to be forced to wait for others to catch up? As fate might have it, this habit might be excellent for your health.
Researchers from the Leicester Biomedical Research Center in the United Kingdom observed half a million people and compared their life habits to their life expectancy. The study revealed that people with a tendency to walk fast enjoy a longer life expectancy, regardless of body weight.
This trend even held true for overweight fast walkers when compared to slower walkers who were skinnier. In fact, people with lower weights who walked slowly had the lowest life expectancy of all. There is a chance that this is due to other health conditions preventing them from gaining weight, of course.
Professor Tom Yates studies the effects of sedentary lifestyles, health, and physical activity at the university. He concludes from the study that physical fitness better predicts the life expectancy of a person much more accurately than body mass. He also says that brisk walking can possibly add a few years to the life of an individual.
Professor Yates has studied the effects walking has on health before. A year ago he demonstrated that higher rates of heart disease occurred in middle-aged men and women who characterized themselves as slow walkers. He further demonstrated people who walk slowly are two times more likely to die from a heart-related complication. This holds true even when the results are controlled for obesity and smoking.
Both studies relied on participants to report their own walking style. However, there is not much problem with the methodology of the studies since most people are aware of their own walking speed.
The big question is how much longer can a fast walker live on average? The answer is as much as 15 years! Men who were fast walkers had life expectancies of 85.2 to 86.8 years. Women who kept fast paces while walking had life expectancies of 86.7 to 87.8 years. Slow walkers, on the other hand, only averaged life spans of 64.8 for men and 72.4 for women.
The study also observed the strength of a subject’s hand grip in correlation to life expectancy. The conclusion was drawn that the tighter a test subject could grip an object, the longer they could expect to live. However, this increase was not nearly as strong as the fast-paced walking.
This further indicates that physical fitness is the key to a longer life. It also suggests that weight and body mass alone is not a good measure of physical fitness since walking speed and grip strength accurately predicted life expectancy regardless of weight and BMI.
Naturally, all this does not mean that you can’t afford to take a nice leisurely stroll every once in a while. But if you are a person that has been chastised for your fast walking pace, you now have ammo to stand your ground.