The authors behind the new paper analyzed the walking pace of romantic partners between the ages of 25 and 79; first alone and then together.
Every cohort reviewed walked significantly slower when they walked with their partners. Decreased speed occurred the most reliably by reason of hand-holding and talking.
“If someone substantially slows down when they are walking with someone else, that could negate some of the health benefits recognized if they walked alone at a faster pace,” said study co-author Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing at Purdue University, in a press statement.
Most health systems recommend adults try to maintain a walking pace between 13 to 20 minutes per mile, or between 3.0 mph to 4.5 mph. Those who walk for at least 30 minutes a day enjoy increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, joint, and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes.
Conversely, failing to meet this requirement can double one’s risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, colon cancer, blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression, and anxiety.
“Walking at a brisk pace is widely recommended to promote health. When partners walk together, walking activity is increased and maintained due to enhanced social support and accountability, but at least one person must adjust their gait speed. Decreased gait speed could compromise health benefits, which may be especially relevant for the aging population,” the authors wrote in the new paper.
“The three couple conditions were walking alone, walking with their partner, and walking while holding hands with their partner. The two pathway conditions were clear pathway and pathway with obstacles. Gait speed was modeled as a function of the couple conditions, pathway conditions, and covariates (gender, age, relationship duration, and physical activity).”
The researchers at Purdue University behind the latest report posit that if one partner walks slower than the other, the faster walker is much more likely to slow their pace to compensate as opposed to the other way around.
“What we wanted to find was that the slower partner walked faster to match the speed of the faster partner,” Shirley Rietdyk, professor in the department of health and kinesiology at Purdue, said in a media release.
“Unfortunately we didn’t find that, but there are other benefits of walking with a partner that need to be considered.”
Older adults appear to decrease their speed more dramatically compared to young adults with an obstructed pathway, though obstructions slowed down all of the participants to some degree or another.
“In both pathway conditions, both partners reduced speed when walking together and reduced speed further while holding hands (p < 0.001), when compared to walking alone. These effects were unchanged when covariates were included in the model. Further, speed was slower on the obstructed pathway for all participants, but the magnitude of slowing was greater with increasing age,” the authors concluded.
“While walking with a partner may increase walking activity due to social support, reduced speed when walking together may unintentionally reduce health benefits and gait quality in both partners. Future research should identify how health is impacted by the trade-off between increased walking activity and reduced gait speed when romantic partners walk together.”
If you don’t have it in you to begin an affair with a younger, faster suitor, consider purchasing a stair master.