Image: Pixabay/Brian Merrill

Brisk Walking Linked to Remarkably Longer Life, Regardless of Weight

New research reveals surprising benefits of a good walk.

Robert Roy Britt
4 min readMay 16, 2019

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Brisk walking is well established as a viable form of moderate physical activity, a threshold not difficult to achieve yet known to improve physical health and mental well-being and up the odds of a longer life. A new study provides one of the most dramatic links yet between walking and longevity. But you’ll want to pick up the pace.

Researchers looked at data across seven years on 474,919 people in the UK, during which time 12,823 of them died. The subjects had defined their own walking pace as slow, steady/average or brisk.

No surprise, the brisk walkers had longer life expectancies, on average. But the number of extra years is dramatic. And most interesting: Brisk walking was linked to more time on this planet regardless of weight — including not just overweight people but also the obese, as measured by body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and waist size.

“Fast walkers have a long life expectancy across all categories of obesity status, regardless of how obesity status is measured,” says the study’s lead author, Tom Yates, a professor in physical activity, sedentary behavior and health at the University of Leicester. “This allows us to have more confidence in the results than if we only looked at a single measure.”

What’s it Mean?

The results suggest physical fitness may be a better indicator of life expectancy than BMI, Yates and his colleagues conclude in a May 15 paper the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

There are limitations to the study. The observational results establish a link, but not cause-and-effect, Yates points out. As one example, habitual brisk walking makes people healthier, but naturally healthier people may be more liable to walk faster. And walking pace was self-reported, not measured. Self-reporting is known to be less than totally accurate, and each person may view “slow” vs. “fast” differently.

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Robert Roy Britt

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB