How walking faster could help you live longer

If you’re the type to saunter or stroll down a sidewalk, you may want to speed up.

A new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people walking at an average or brisk pace had a higher chance of living longer than people who walked at a slow stroll.

Why it helps to speed up

Out of the 50,225 participants in England and Scotland who were followed over a period of 14 years, the brisk walkers were 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than slow strollers. The researchers suggest that the brisk walking helps because it provides “a greater stimulus for physiologic adaptations in functions known to influence cardiovascular disease mortality.”

The effects of the walking pace were greater in the older participants. Walkers ages 60 years or over lowered their risk of dying by heart disease by 46%.

What’s a brisk pace? A sweaty one. “A fast pace is generally five to six kilometers per hour, but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels; an alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained,” Emmanuel Stamatakis, one of the authors of the study, explained.

The good news is that you do not have to break a sweat to get walking benefits. An average pace is enough to make a long-term difference. The walkers with an average pace lowered their heart disease mortality risk by 24%.

This finding backs up others on the power of less intense exercise. One study found that just an hour of low-level, aerobic exercise was enough to lower depression. To keep your heart healthy and your mind at peace, in other words, you just need to keep moving at a steady pace.