Fast Walkers Live Longer—so Step Aside, Text-Walkers!

Photo: Getty Images/Cultura RM and ExclusiveSpark Photographic
When a study of nearly half a million people concludes that walking at breakneck speed might increase life expectancy, you lace your sneakers and get moving. Last week, experts in England linked a spring in your step to the number of years between birth and death.

Researchers combed through data from the UK Biobank to discover that fast walkers who were underweight, obese, and every "weight status" in between all ended up cheating death longer than slow walkers (saunterers, strollers, dawdlers, and meanderers, etc.). Of all the groups surveyed, underweight, leisurely walkers lived the fewest years on average (64.8 years for men, 72.4 years for women), according to the National Institute for Health Research.

This study marks the first piece of research linking fast walking to longevity regardless of weight, and researchers believe they're closer than ever to understanding physical indicators of life expectancy beyond BMI. "Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals," Tom Yates, PhD, professor of physical activity and sedentary behavior and health at the University of Leicester, told The Mayo Clinic. "In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives."

"Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals."

Before you make strides toward incorporating power walking into your coffee run, a few pointers on good form. "Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements," recommends the Mayo Clinic. Make sure you're looking straight ahead; relaxing your neck, shoulders, and back; pumping your arms; engaging your abs; and walking from heel to toe. Sounds like a (fast) walk in the park to me.

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