Age Wise

Walk Faster, Live Longer

Short on time? No problem. Just pick up the pace, new research suggests.

Robert Roy Britt
Published in
5 min readJan 26, 2022

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Photo: Unsplash/Thom Milkovic

Great scientific strides have been made in recent years to show convincingly that walking is among the simplest and most effective ways for anyone at any age to improve mood, boost physical health, curb chronic pain, and help prevent disease every step of the way.

The well-established bar for achieving these benefits is pretty reasonable: a walk in the park, literally, or around the block a few times. Whatever it takes to achieve the recommended 150 minutes or more per week — five days at 30 minutes each — of moderately intense physical activity, typically defined as somewhere between “conversation is easy” and “you can hear your breathing but you’re not out of breath.”

Got no time for that? Turns out the faster you hoof it, the greater the benefit, the latest evidence indicates. Put another way, you can spend less time walking yet enjoy the same health gains.

Fast track to heart health

A new study reveals the power of picking up your pace for heart health. Researchers followed 25,000 women, ages 50 to 79, using self-reporting to determine how much they walked and how briskly. About 1,500 of the women suffered heart failure during the 17 years of the study. The findings:

  • Women who walk at an average pace, about two to three mph, are 27% less likely to have heart failure than those who walk slower.
  • Women who keep a fast pace — defined as greater than three mph — have a 34% lower risk of heart failure than the slowpokes.
  • Fast walking for less than one hour per week offers the same risk reduction as walking at average speed for more than two hours.

How fast is fast? Shuffling along at three mph means you’ll walk a mile in 20 minutes. Any of several phone apps will measure walking time and distance and calculate your pace.

“Given that limited time for exercise is frequently given as a barrier to regular physical activity, walking faster but for less time might provide similar health benefits as the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity,” says study leader…

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB