Gretchen Reynolds’ Well New York Times blog entry from Dec. 4, 2013 is mindblowing-
It suggests that those of us that regularly walk or backpack should consider moving a bit quicker, but only if you are interested in living longer !
The design of the research study ( initiated in 1998 ), recruited 7,374 male and 31,607 female walkers, who represented almost every speed of fitness walker, from sluggish to swift. Those findings were published online this month in PLoS One.
The research design even corrected for total energy expended, where the slowest walkers were required to walk longer distances, in order to adjust up to an equivalent energy output with the speediest walkers.
Dr. Paul T. Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cross-referenced his data against records that confirmed which of the almost 39,000 walkers had died in the decade or so since they had joined the survey. The 2,000 deaths over-represented the slowest walkers, even if they met or exceeded the standard exercise guidelines and expended as much energy per day as someone walking briskly for 30 minutes.
“This effect was most pronounced among the slowest of the slow walkers, whose pace was 24 minutes per mile or higher. They were 44 percent more likely to have died than walkers who moved faster, even if they met the exercise guidelines.”
The article correctly notes one huge confounding variable, “The slowest walkers may have harbored underlying health conditions that predisposed them to both a tentative walking pace and early death. But that possibility underscores a subtle takeaway of the new study, Dr. Williams said. “ Measuring your walking speed, he pointed out, could provide a barometer of your health status.”
Not to panic.
Ms. Raynolds leaves us with hope,
”The most encouraging news embedded in the new study is that longevity rises with small improvements in pace. The walkers in Category 3, for instance, moved at a speed only a minute or so faster per mile than some of those in the slowest group, but they enjoyed a significant reduction in their risk of dying prematurely.”