Can your walking speed predict how long you’ll live?
A new study has shown that people who walk at a fast pace are likely to live longer than those who move slowly. The findings, published in the journal Communications Biology, suggest that walking speed could be a marker of health and longevity.
The analysis was conducted on over 405,000 UK Biobank participants. The UK Biobank is a database in the United Kingdom that analyzes genetics and environmental exposures over the long-term to determine the likelihood that a person develops a wide range of diseases.
The study asked participants to self-report their typical walking speed as slow, steady/average, or brisk, and the researchers analyzed responses relative to telomere length.
Telomeres are caps on the ends of DNA that protect their integrity, much like shoelace ends keep your laces from unraveling. Long telomeres have been found to be associated with a longer lifespan.
They found that self-reported brisk and steady/average walkers had longer telomeres than self-reported slow walkers.
Can You Walk Faster to Live Longer?
What if you're a slow walker? Can you walk faster and create longer telomeres?
It doesn't exactly work that way. It's not that people who walk slowly are unhealthy and that's why their telomeres are shorter. It may be that people with longer telomeres are more likely to have a higher overall energy, and it comes out in their walking speed.
Walking faster may encourage you to walk more, which could help your lifespan, but walking alone isn’t going to do it. Let’s get into the things you can do to make sure you age well.
How to Live Longer and Better
The good news is, a growing body of research has found behaviors that are associated with aging gracefully. Here are some things to try:
- Don't smoke. Smoking cuts down on life expectancy through several mechanisms, and telomere length is one of them.
- Spend time with family and friends. One of the predictors of lifespan is your social network, so nurture the relationships you have and find interest groups to build new friendships.
- Exercise regularly. Chances are, you know it's good for you. Lifespan is another reason why.
- Get enough sleep. Quality sleep is when your body carries out repair and maintenance processes. Like a car, if you keep up on your maintenance, you'll get more life out of your body.
- Eat healthy foods. A diet that's low in sugar with adequate protein and lots of vegetables is the foundation for feeling fantastic.
- Reduce stress. It is estimated that over half of diseases are rooted in stress, so stress management techniques like yoga and breathwork will help you mitigate those effects.
You can't change your genes, but you can change your lifestyle.
And that's good news, because it means you have the power to extend your years. So get out there and start living!