It’s no surprise that maintaining an active lifestyle is linked to staving off age-related diseases such as heart damage, memory loss, and cognitive decline. However, researchers are zoning in on specific activities that we can easily incorporate into our life that will directly slow down specific effects of degenerative aging.
Previous studies have determined links between walking speed and health, such as this 2019 study that shows how walking slower in your 40s is connected with biological indicators of accelerated aging such as lower total brain volume. Another study from the University of Leicester shows that 10 minutes of brisk walking per day could increase someone’s life expectancy by as much as three years! However, this most recent study investigates a large pool of genetic data from the UK Biobank to confirm the causal (rather than simply correlative) relationship between power walking and a longer health span.
“In this study, we used information contained in people’s genetic profile to show that a faster walking pace is indeed likely to lead to a younger biological age as measured by telomeres,” says senior author of the study Tom Yates.
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are the protective caps found on the ends of chromosomes that keep them from getting damaged. As cells continue to divide, telomeres become shorter and shorter and eventually stop the cell from dividing any further, transforming them into what’s called a senescent cell. This is why telomere length is used to signify an individual’s biological age.
Establishing a clear link
The findings of this study were based on the comparisons between data from more than 400,000 middle-aged adults and information on walking speeds both self-reported and extracted from wearable activity trackers.
It is one of the first studies that look at all of the relevant factors together, which allows researchers to establish a clear link between quicker gaits and younger biological age. The writers conclude that the difference in biological age between fast and slow walkers is a whopping 16-year difference.
“This suggests measures such as a habitually slower walking speed are a simple way of identifying people at risk of chronic disease or unhealthy aging, and that activity intensity may play an important role in optimizing interventions,” says the lead author of the study Dr. Paddy Dempsey.
So, if you’re waiting for a sign to join a power-walking group, this is it! Get your sneakers and speed walk yourself into better health.
Source study: Communications Biology—Investigation of a UK biobank cohort reveals causal associations of self-reported walking pace with telomere length