Any kind of exercise or movement is better than none when it comes to health, and there are so many options to choose from. When considering which cardiovascular exercise to try out, walking is a great way to get started.
Walking is an option for all ages and fitness levels and costs nothing. All you need is a good pair of trainers or walking shoes and you’re away – a walk around the block, to the park, walking the dog, the kids to school or even trying out one of New Zealand’s great walks.
Walking can get you out into nature to experience some of the mental health benefits that we mentioned in our recent blog What happens to your brain when you get into nature. Joining a walking group or walking with friends or family can support your social health.
Walking and the way you age
There are many healthy lifestyle habits that can help us lead a longer and healthier life. Recent science has found that your walking speed is a good indicator of longevity.
A UK study¹ of more than 400,000 participants, who were on average in their mid-50s, measured walking speed by asking participants to self-evaluate their usual walking speed.
- Slower pace = less than 3 miles per hour (less than around 4.8 kms per hour)
- Steady/average pace = 3-4 miles per hour (4.8 – 6.4 kms per hour)
- Brisk pace= > 4 miles per hour (over 6.4 kms per hour)
The researchers also provided a subset of 86,000 participants with accelerometer assessed total physical activity and intensity.
To measure the effect of walking speed on longevity, researchers measured the length of participants telomeres, which is one of the biomarkers for healthy aging. See our blog on Telomeres - what are they and why are they important? for more information on telomeres.
The study found that steady/average walkers and brisk walkers had a longer telomere length than slow walkers, with brisk walkers having an incredible 16 year longer life expectancy compared to slow walkers.
The observations using accelerometer measurements found that longer telomere length was associated with those engaging in regularly intensive activity, but not total amount of activity. It was found that as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking a day is associated with longer life expectancy.
Any form of activity or movement is better for our health than none. However, if we make it a habit to pick up the pace of our regular walk, we could potentially be enjoying a healthier life for longer.
How about introducing a ten-minute speed walk component to your walking regime? You will be thanking your younger self for it in the long run.
BBA (Hons)., BNat., mNMHNZ
Registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
¹ Dempsey, P. C., Musicha, C., Rowlands, A. V., Davies, M., Khunti, K., Razieh, C., Timmins, I., Zaccardi, F., Codd, V., Nelson, C. P., Yates, T., & Samani, N. J. (2022). Investigation of a UK biobank cohort reveals causal associations of self-reported walking pace with telomere length. Communications Biology, 5(1). doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-03323-x.