Do you often find yourself leaving others in the dust when you go for a walk? Or do you lag behind everyone else, just taking your time? You may not have thought your walking speed was really that important, but a new study shows that it actually is very important, especially if you want to measure your life expectancy.
The study found that people who walk at least one meter per second, or about 2.25 mph, tend to live longer than those who walk at a slower rate.
“We’re able to show that a person’s capacity to move strongly reflects vitality and health,” said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, one of the study’s researchers.
So, if you start walking faster, will you live longer? Unfortunately, no.
“Your body chooses the walking speed that is best for you, and that is your speed, your health indicator,” said Studenski. “And that’s what it really is: an indicator. Going out and walking faster does not necessarily mean you will suddenly live longer. You still need to address the underlying health issuers.”
For example, someone who suffered from heart disease would probably not be able to walk as quickly as an Olympic athlete. These people obviously have different health levels, so it makes sense that the faster walker (the Olympic athlete) would live longer than the slower walker (the heart disease patient).
A person’s walking speed depends on his energy, movement control and coordination. These things all require the cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems to be in good working order, which will in turn make a person healthier.
This new study shows that walking speed is a good indicator for overall health and longevity, especially among people who are older than 75-years old. Those who walk about 0.8 meters per second, or 1.8 mph, will have an average life expectancy. Those who walk faster than 1.8 mph will have a higher than average life expectancy, and those who walk slower than 1.8 mph will have a less than average life expectancy.
This study was based on nine earlier studies that examined the walking speeds, genders, ages, BMIs, medical histories, and survival rates of approximately 34,500 people.
“In the past, we simply knew that walking faster was better,” said Dr. Matteo Cesari. “This study provides us the numerical basis to estimate survival for each walking speed measured on an older person.”
Next time you go for a walk, pay attention to how quickly you are walking. If you are not walking as quickly as you would like, try to identify the underlying health causes and improve them to make yourself a healthier, longer-living walker.
by Kelsey Murray