How to live longer: One surprisingly ‘simple’ way to extend your life

The desire to live a long and fulfilling life is inherently human. Human consciousness allows the mind to ponder such existential questions. There is no one answer of course – maintaining a healthy diet and eliminating poor lifestyle habits offers a rounded approach. One study suggests tweaking a simple everyday activity could extend the years.

Speeding up walking pace could extend a person’s life, research conducted by the University of Sydney suggests.

Walking at an average pace was found to be associated with a 20 per cent risk reduction for all-cause mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24 per cent.

A similar result was found for risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, with a reduction of 24 percent walking at an average pace and 21 per cent walking at a brisk or fast pace, compared to walking at a slow pace.

The protective effects of walking pace were also found to be more pronounced in older age groups.

Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46 per cent reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53 per cent reduction.

The research team is calling for walking pace to be emphasised in public health messages

“A fast pace is generally five to seven kilometres per hour, but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels; an alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained,” lead author Professor Stamatakis explained.

In a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health, the University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Limerick and University of Ulster, the researchers sought to determine the associations between walking pace with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.

Linking mortality records with the results of 11 population-based surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008 – in which participants self-reported their walking pace – the research team then adjusted for factors such as total amount and intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index.

“Walking pace is associated with all-cause mortality risk, but its specific role – independent from the total physical activity a person undertakes – has received little attention until now,” said Professor Stamatakis.

The lead author added: ”While sex and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality however.”

In light of the findings, the research team is calling for walking pace to be emphasised in public health messages.

“Separating the effect of one specific aspect of physical activity and understanding its potentially causal association with risk of premature death is complex,” Professor Stamatakis said.

“Assuming our results reflect cause and effect, these analyses suggest that increasing walking pace may be a straightforward way for people to improve heart health and risk for premature mortality – providing a simple message for public health campaigns to promote.

“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up – one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives.”

Maintaining an active lifestyle also underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. As the NHS explained, being obese can increase a person’s risk of developing many potentially serious health conditions.

These include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol and atherosclerosis (where fatty deposits narrow your arteries), which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Asthma
  • Metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity)
  • Several types of cancer, including bowel cancer, breast cancer and womb cancer
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) (where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the gullet)
  • Gallstones
  • Reduced fertility
  • Osteoarthritis (a condition involving pain and stiffness in your joints)
  • Sleep apnoea (a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep, which can lead to daytime sleepiness with an increased risk of road traffic accidents, as well as a greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease)
  • Liver disease and kidney disease
  • Pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia (when a woman experiences a potentially dangerous rise in blood pressure during pregnancy)

The health site added: “Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of three to 10 years, depending on how severe it is.”

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