Do you want to live longer? Try to speed up your daily walk.

New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology found that individuals who walk at a fast pace for an average of 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of developing heart disease, cancer, dementia and death than individuals who walk a similar number of steps at a slower pace.

The link between walking speed and health outcomes

For the studies, researchers analyzed activity tracker data from 78,500 UK Biobank participants, which is the largest trial to use activity tracker data.

“Activity tracker data will be better than self-reported data,” said Michael Fredericson, a sports physician at Stanford Universitywho was not involved in the investigation. “We know that people’s ability to self-report is flawed,” often because participants don’t accurately remember how much they exercise on a given day or week.

On average, the participants were 61 years old. At the start of the trial, they were asked to wear an activity tracker for seven days and nights. Next, researchers tracked the participants’ health outcomes, including whether they developed heart disease, cancer, dementia, or died over a period of six to eight years.

For every 2,000 extra daily steps, the participants reduced their risk of premature death, heart disease and cancer by about 10%, to about 10,000 daily steps.

Researchers found that taking 9,800 steps per day was associated with a 50% lower risk of developing dementia. But even 3,800 daily steps reduced the risk of dementia by 25%.

To determine whether walking speed affected health outcomes, researchers looked at the participants’ step speed per minute. When they compared the most intense 30 minutes of activity across the participants’ days, they found that those with the fastest pace — between 80 and 100 steps per minute — had better health outcomes than those who walked a similar number of steps at a slower pace.

The fastest walkers, in particular, had a 35% lower risk of death, a 25% lower risk of developing heart disease or cancer, and a 30% lower risk of developing dementia than participants with a slower average pace.

According to these findings, a person who includes 2,400 to 3,000 brisk steps in their daily steps could significantly reduce their risk of developing heart disease, cancer and dementia.

“It doesn’t have to be a consecutive 30-minute session,” said Matthew Ahmadi, a research associate at the University of Sydney and one of the authors of the study. “It can be short bursts here and there throughout the day.”

Ultimately, researchers noted that the most important thing to focus on is to walk faster than your average pace.

How can you improve health outcomes by walking?

When incorporating higher-intensity exercises into an exercise routine, said Tamanna Singh, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, urges her patients to remember that everything is relative. “Everyone starts with a different training status,” Singh said.

For example, what may be considered a fast pace for one person may not be fast for another – the relative effort is the most important.

With a brisk walking pace, “in this moderate effort you are able to increase your aerobic capacity,” Singh said.

The best way to set a brisk pace is to walk at a manageable intensity that also pushes the boundaries of what feels like a comfortable pace. “That constant slow stress on your body leads to fitness gains,” Singh said.

“If you’re just starting out, this is probably the easiest way to get started and stay committed, consistent and injury free,” Singh added. (Pandy, axios, 9/21; fairbank, New York Times20-09)

Leave a Comment