Your Walking Pace May Determine Your Longevity
It’s long been known that improving your physical fitness is associated with living a longer life. Studies show that past age 65, your walking speed at your natural pace is a surprisingly reliable predictor of survival. The study looked at the natural gait speed of more than 34,000 participants age 65 and older from nine previous studies. These studies followed outcomes for 12 years or more, in which time almost half of the participants died. They found a consistent effect of how long people lived and whether they had a faster or slower gait speed. Those who walked naturally at 2.2 miles per hour or faster were likely to live longer than would be predicted by age and sex alone. Those who walked naturally at 1.8 miles per hour were likely to live the average life span for their age and gender. The more slowly participants walked, the shorter the expected life span.
There are many reasons that people walk slower in older age. Walking is a complex activity that is affected by changes to numerous systems of the body. Some of the factors that influence your ability to walk include:
- Arthritis affects your hips and knees and can slow your pace.
- Lungs and heart health are critical to walking regularly and comfortably.
- Your brain and nervous system must function well to send messages to the muscles so they work in a coordinated fashion and to maintain posture and balance as you walk.
No matter what your walking speed, you can reduce your health risks and improve the likelihood of living a longer and healthier life. If you have a naturally fast pace, don’t rest on your laurels! Take advantage of all preventive measures that will lead to more healthy years ahead. If you are slowing down a bit, take the opportunity to discuss it with your doctor. There might be an undiagnosed condition that is slowing you down. Consider ramping up your walking program or starting a more vigorous program to improve your health and well-being.