Faster walking pace beneficial to biological aging

April 22, 2022
Faster walking pace beneficial to biological aging

The first-of-its-kind research to look at how walking pace may influence health and biological age has put forth a genetic link: scientists from the University of Leicester, UK, now confirm that walking faster is likely to lead to a younger biological age, as measured by cell structures known as telomeres.

Scientists analysed pooled movement activity data from more than 400,000 middle-aged English adults to find that walking pace influences the length of telomeres – the caps on the end of chromosomes that protect them from damage and determine a cell’s likelihood of dividing. Telomere length is indicative of biological age. This is backed by research data which showed a 16-year difference between adults classified as fast and slow walkers, the scientists said.

Telomeres become shorter each time a cell divides – until a point where they become so short that the cell can no longer divide, a stage known as “replicative senescence.” The build-up of these senescent cells is believed to contribute to a range of symptoms associated with aging, including physical and cognitive impairments.

“This research uses genetic data to provide stronger evidence for a causal link between faster walking pace and longer telomere length,” said Dr. Paddy Dempsey, lecturer and research fellow at the University of Leicester and within the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. According to Dr. Dempsey, data from wrist-worn wearable activity tracking devices used to measure movement activity also supported the theory of a stronger role of habitual activity intensity (e.g., faster walking) in relation to telomere length.

“This suggests measures such as a habitually slower walking speed are a simple way of identifying people at greater risk of chronic disease or unhealthy ageing, and that activity intensity may play an important role in optimising interventions. For example, in addition to increasing overall walking, those who are able could aim to increase the number of steps completed in a given time (e.g., by walking faster to the bus stop).

Previous research from the University of Leicester has shown that as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking a day is associated with longer life expectancy, and that brisk walkers have up to 20 years of greater life expectancy compared to slow walkers.

Read: Experimental ankle exoskeleton system increases walking speed

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Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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