Sep 22, 2022 - Health

Pick up the pace

Illustration of a sneaker with a logo in the shape of a EKG line
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Walking is a simple way to improve health and lengthen life. But it's not just the number of steps you take that helps, it's also how quickly you take them.

The big picture: In a pair of new studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology, researchers compared brisk walkers' risk of disease and premature death with that of slow or average walkers and found that walking fast made a difference.

Why it matters: This new research draws a clear line between intense walks and leisurely strolls.

  • Researchers compared the 30 most intense minutes of activity in study participants' days and found that, even when the overall step counts were similar, those whose peak speeds were brisk — about 90 steps per minute — had lower health risks than those whose paces were average.
  • Fast walkers had a 30% lower risk of developing dementia, a 25% lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease and a 35% overall lower risk of premature death.

Worth noting: The brisk walking doesn't have to be in one 30-minute chunk, study author Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the University of Sydney, told the New York Times.

  • It can be in small bursts throughout your day. Picking up the pace from time to time makes the difference.

If you like to go for walks, try going at a faster clip for one or two minute intervals. Or even speed up your pacing around the office.

The bottom line: Walking is something most of us incorporate into our days to live longer, healthier lives.

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