Brisk walking may shave 16 years off your biological age by midlife, researchers say

Brisk walking may shave 16 years off your biological age by midlife, researchers say
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  • Walking is one of the most evidence-backed strategies to improve health and longevity.
  • A brisk pace might also help extend the lifespan of telomeres, a key marker of cellular health in DNA.

Walking at a brisk pace could shave years off your biological age, new research suggests.

A faster walking pace was associated with fewer markers of aging in a large group of older adults with data suggesting that faster walking may reduce markers of aging by as much as 16 years by midlife, according to a study published April 20 in the journal Communications Biology.

Researchers from the University of Leicester and Leicester Biomedical Research Centre looked at genetic data from 405,981 middle-aged UK residents, averaging in their mid 50s. They compared the typical self-reported walking pace of participants with signs of biological aging by measuring a key marker of cellular health called telomeres.

Telomeres are the tail ends of chromosomes, or strands of our DNA, and provide stability as cells divide over time. As we age, telomeres become shorter, like a candle burning down — shorter telomeres are linked to age-related illnesses such as cancer.

People with a habitually faster walking pace (more than three miles an hour) were found to have longer telomeres, on average, than their slower-walking peers, according to the data. Furthermore, the benefits seemed to be linked to the intensity of the activity, rather than the total number of steps or walking duration.


The results are significant because while prior research has shown a link between a brisk walking pace and fewer markers of aging, the most recent study suggests walking quickly is the cause of the benefits, according to researchers.

"In this study we used information contained in people's genetic profile to show that a faster walking pace is indeed likely to lead to a younger biological age as measured by telomeres," Tom Yates, senior author of the study and professor at the University of Leicester said in a press release.

Walking has evidence-based benefits for mental and physical health as well as longevity

Regardless of your pace, walking is one of the most well-researched ways to boost your mood, lift your energy levels, and stave off a variety of illnesses, according to science.

Research suggests walking elevates your heart rate and improves blood flow, which can help relieve pain and muscle aches, reduce stress and depression, and enhance heart health.

You don't need to hit 10,000 steps a day to see results, either — research suggests the benefits of walking occur on a spectrum, with as few as 4,400 steps a day linked to a longer life.


The general recommendation for physical activity is 30 minutes a day, which can be broken up throughout the day, such as three 10-minutes walks, or gradually increased over time, according to the Mayo Clinic.