Taking a Brisk Walk May Slow Down Aging, New Study Says
It's no secret that walking is a great form of cardio exercise—it has been proven to improve cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and increase your metabolism. But is there a certain speed you should be moving at in order to reap these benefits? According to a new study published in Communications Biology, there may be a connection between a faster walking pace and longer leucocyte telomere length (LTL is causally associated with several chronic diseases and has been proposed as a marker of biological age); the study's findings could help explain some of the beneficial effects of brisk walking on health status.
Telomeres are special DNA found on the end of chromosomes that protects them from damage. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres also divide, meaning they can also get shorter. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, as the telomeres become shorter it acts as a clock that the cell is counting to know how old it is and that will limit how many times the cell can divide without losing some of the chromosome's important DNA. For this reason, there are several indications that telomere length is a good predictor of lifespan.
To conduct their study, researchers analyzed data from more than 400,000 middle-aged participants in the UK Biobank and compared it to information on walking speeds, both self-reported and taken from activity trackers. About half the participants reported an average or steady walking pace, while more than six percent considered themselves slow walkers, and 41 percent say they walk at a brisk pace. Compared to slow walkers, average and brisk walkers were slightly younger and less likely to have never smoked, be taking cholesterol or blood pressure medications, or have a chronic disease.
They found that faster self-reported walking pace was associated with LTL. What's more, data from the participants who wore activity trackers revealed that more time spent in higher intensity activities had a stronger association with lower telomere length than total activity. According to the research, these findings support more intensive movement, such as faster walking pace, as a potentially important determining factor of telomere length and overall health status.