Speed matters: Faster walkers live longer, study says

Walking is a terrific and convenient form of exercise, especially as people get older.

But is a leisurely stroll as good as a fast clip?

A recent study measuring walking speed and longevity says maybe not, at least when it comes to life expectancy. In a presentation at the IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics earlier this month in Paris, researchers analyzed nine previous studies that included 34,000 men and women whose average age was almost 74. The long-term studies tracked participants for 10 to more than 20 years.

Overall, faster walkers lived longer than slower walkers, with those walking at a gait speed of 1.4 meters per second or faster more than twice as likely to be alive after 10 years than those who walked at 0.4 meters per second or slower.

The survival gap between faster and slower walkers widened further after 15 years.

Gait speed was a good predictor of survival across all groups, regardless of gender, ethnicity and health condition.

"(Gait speed) may be useful clinically for estimating general life expectancy," wrote the authors in the study.

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