Fast walkers may live longer regardless of body weight

A recent study found that people who walk at faster paces may live longer than people who walk slower. The data was self-reported by nearly 475,000 people in the UK, revealing that this increased physical activity's longevity benefit persisted despite the person's body weight. The findings underscore the importance of getting adequate levels of physical activity.

The research comes out of the National Institute for Health Research — Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, where researchers found a link between walking at fast paces and living longer lives. The association persisted across all weight levels, spanning from individuals who were underweight all the way up to morbidly obese.

Of all the people evaluated, the study found that underweight individuals who reported walking at slow paces had the lowest life expectancy: an average of 64.8 years for men and 72.4 years for women. The association pertains to people who 'habitually' walk at faster paces rather than people who just sometimes speed walk.

At the heart of the matter is physical activity, which is known to offer a number of health benefits. This is the first study a looked specifically at typical walking speeds and how it correlates to life expectancy; the information was self-reported by the participants.

The study's lead author Professor Tom Yates explained:

Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals. In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.