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Just walking faster might help extend life

Dec. 15, 2011
Courtesy of the British Medical Journal
and World Science staff

Men aged 70 and up may be able to live long­er just by walk­ing at speeds of at least three miles (five km) an hour, a new study finds.

This prac­tice may pro­tect “a­gainst mor­tal­ity be­cause fast walk­ers can main­tain a safe dis­tance from the Grim Reape­r,” the au­thors joked in their re­port, re­fer­ring to the myth­o­lo­g­i­cal and lit­er­ary fig­ure who pe­r­son­i­fies death.

However, they didn’t rule out the poss­i­bility that fast­er walk­ers live long­er simp­ly be­cause they are health­ier to be­gin with.

The re­search­ers, based at Con­cord Hos­pi­tal in Syd­ney, Aus­tral­ia an­a­lysed the walk­ing pat­terns of 1,705 Syd­ney-area men aged 70 and over who were par­ti­ci­pat­ing in a sur­vey called the Con­cord Health and Age­ing in Men Proj­ect.

The men were re­cruited from Jan­u­ary 2005 to June 2007. The study in­clud­ed many im­mi­grants. Half the par­ti­ci­pants were born in Aus­tral­ia, one-fifth in Italy and oth­ers were largely from Great Brit­ain, Greece and Chi­na.

The re­search­ers as­sessed par­ti­ci­pants’ walk­ing speed at the start and their sur­viv­al over a  five-year pe­ri­od.

A to­tal of 266 deaths were ob­served dur­ing the fol­low-up. The re­sults showed that av­er­age walk­ing speed for these men was two miles (about three km) per hour. No men with walk­ing speeds of three miles per hour or above died dur­ing the study pe­ri­od.

The study is pub­lished in the Christ­mas is­sue of the Brit­ish Med­i­cal Jour­nal.


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Mean aged 70 and up may be able to live longer just by walking at speeds of at least three miles (five km) an hour, a new study finds. This practice may protect “against mortality because fast walkers can maintain a safe distance from the Grim Reaper,” the authors joked in their report, referring to the mythological and literary figure who personifies death. The researchers based at Concord Hospital in Sydney, Australia analysed the walking patterns of 1,705 men aged 70 and over who were participating in a survey called The Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project. The men lived in the inner city and suburbs of Sydney and they were recruited from January 2005 to June 2007. The study included many immigrants. Half the participants were born in Australia, one-fifth in Italy and others were largely from Great Britain, Greece and China. The researchers assessed participants’ walking speed at baseline and survival over the five-year study period. A total of 266 deaths were observed during the follow-up. The results showed that their average walking speed was two miles (three km) per hour. No men with walking speeds of three miles or five km per hour died during the study period. The study is published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.