- The surprising thing that makes you 16 years younger
- How this type of walking slows the ageing process
- Overweight people can actually be healthier than those with good BMIs because of this
I’ve got a habit of walking too quickly.
Ever since I was young, I’ve moved at speed, as if my pants were on fire.
“Slow down, Ray!” my friends would moan when we were on a night out in our early 20s.
It didn’t help that I was a big bloke with long legs.
I was almost twice the size of one of my short mates, who would have to jog alongside me, with a pained expression on his face.
They all assumed I was rushing to get to the pub because of my love of beer…
But I walked everywhere like that.
I think it’s because I’ve got an impatient streak and I am always thinking about the next thing I have to do… and how to get there most quickly.
Also, I HATE being late.
However, my tendency for fast walking became a habit, to the point where I have always found it hard to walk slowly, no matter what circumstances I am in.
It feels so unnatural!
In fact, I remember an early date with Lara, which was supposed to be a stroll through a park before going for dinner…
But it ended up with us hurtling around the park and her stumbling into the restaurant drenched in sweat.
I’ve always felt a bit ashamed about it, as if the slow walkers were cooler, more in tune with their surroundings, and generally less stressed.
Now, I’m quite happy about my lifetime of speed-walking.
Because it turns out that it’s hugely good for your health.
How fast walking makes you 16 years younger
Research in the journal Communications Biology has found that people who walk briskly (faster than 4mph) have a biological age 16 years younger than ‘dawdlers’.
They worked this out by measuring the protective caps, known as telomeres, which are on the end of each chromosome. These are commonly used to measure biological age.
The faster walkers had longer telomeres than the slower ones, a sign that they were biologically younger.
This was a big study too, with over 400,000 people in their middle age tested for these crucial markers.
So the upshot of this research is, if you are a fast walker as a young adult, by the time you get to your older years, you’ll be physically younger – and probably you’ll feel it too.
And here’s the clincher…
One of the study’s authors, Thomas Yates, said that “Fast walkers who are overweight or obese have a longer life expectancy than slow walkers who have a normal body weight.”
Amazing to think, isn’t it?
Walking could counteract the negative effects of weight problems!
It harks back to that Good Life Letter I sent a few weeks ago, disputing BMI (Body Mass Index) and the simplification of health into stats and numbers.
As I said in that letter, just because your BMI is a bit over the recommended level, it doesn’t always mean you are unhealthy.
This research shows that you could have a really good BMI and yet, if you are a really slow walker who does no other exercise, you’ll be less healthy than someone with a higher BMI.
It’s why it’s so important to consider ALL aspects of someone’s mental and physical health before we jump to conclusions about their risk of premature death.
Because there are so many factors that contribute to our state of wellbeing.
And something as simple as regular brisk walking could have such a significant impact on that.
Even if you have spent your life up ‘til now as a slow plodder, there’s still time to do yourself some good.
Simply pick up the pace whenever you can!
It’s a free health remedy after all.
It can even boost your brain health
Of course, there’s still a place for slow, contemplative walking.
Taking time to consider your surroundings, smell the flowers and touch nature with your fingers is really good for your mental health.
So you don’t have to become a permanently high speed walker, like you’re in a Benny Hill sketch.
The practice of regular walking at any old speed will have lots of benefits for your wellbeing, regardless.
For instance, in 2017, researchers at New Mexico Highlands University found that when you walk, the impact of your foot on the ground sends pressure waves through your arteries. This helps increase the supply of blood to your brain, improving alertness and concentration.
And further back in 2012, a study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed that walking helped ease depression.
They’re not sure why yet, but scientists think that walking distracts you from worries, gives you a sense of control and releases your body’s natural happiness hormones.
Anyway, I feel vindicated for my annoyingly quick walking pace now that this research has come out.
Whether I am biologically 16 years younger or not, I am not sure.
I have to admit, I have eaten a lot of cakes quickly in my life, too.
We shall see in due course.
Time will tell, as they say…