If you walk faster it makes sense you will get to your destination sooner. But if that destination is the end of your life, a new study shows walking faster may mean it takes you longer to get there.
Researchers at the University of Sydney have concluded walking with a brisk or fast pace is associated with a 24 percent reduction in all-cause mortality when compared with walking at a slow pace. Walking at an average pace also led to a 20 percent reduction.
The findings published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine explain that the benefits are even more pronounced in older age groups. Walkers over the age of 60 at an average pace experience a 46 percent reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular reasons while that number jumps up to 53 percent in fast walkers.
"A fast pace is generally five to seven kilometers per hour (3.1-4.3 miles), but it really depends on a walker's fitness level,” says study author Emmanuel Stamatakis. “An alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained."
A team from Sydney’s School of Public Health collaborated with colleagues from the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Limerick and Ulster to gauge the association between walking pace and mortality rates from all causes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. They linked mortality rates with the findings of 11 population-based surveys between 1994 and 2008 from England and Scotland where, among other things, respondents self-reported their walking pace.
Researchers adjusted for factors like amount and intensity of all physical activity as well as age, sex and body mass index among the 50,000 participants when calculating their findings.
"Walking pace is associated with all-cause mortality risk, but its specific role—independent from the total physical activity a person undertakes—has received little attention until now," Professor Stamatakis said. "While sex and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality however.”
Researchers stopped short of making recommendations regarding the duration and frequency of walking when issuing its findings on pace. "Assuming our results reflect cause and effect, these analyses suggest that increasing walking pace may be a straightforward way for people to improve heart health and risk for premature mortality—providing a simple message for public health campaigns to promote,” Stamatakis added.