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Does Walking Faster Make You Live Longer?

Got a naturally steady gait? Research suggests you’re probably healthier—and might live longer—than those who can’t keep up.

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If you live in a city—or if you’re always running 10 minutes late—you’re probably used to booking it between point A and point B. And good news: breezing past slower-moving walkers could be an indicator that you’ll live longer than they will, says Stephanie Studenski, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Studenski recently studied how walking speed relates to health and vitality. Her research suggests that fast walkers are naturally healthier than those who can’t keep up, especially among elderly people.

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At the beginning of the study, more than 34,000 seniors were timed as they walking at their normal pace for about 13 feet. They were then periodically re-tested for up to 21 years after the baseline reading. Studenski found that walking faster than your peers was a better indicator of longevity than age or gender. "Speed of movement seems to be linear, with each increase correlating with an increased prediction for years of life," she says.

Not naturally fast on your feet? Some research suggests that revving up your pace could boost longevity. One study from Studenski's team showed that people who improved their walking speed over a year had a better chance of survival during the following eight years compared to people who didn't speed up.

Although her research focused on seniors, picking up the pace while you’re young could add years to your life later on. But don’t just speedwalk the next time you’re out on the sidewalk. Hit the gym and work on flexibility, balance and endurance. Stick with it and you’ll be breezing past tourists for years.

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