Slowpokes, beware. A lack of speed on the daily walk might be putting you on the road to a shorter life.
A study by British researchers analyzing the lives of nearly a half-million people found that people who walk at a brisk pace are more likely to live longer than those who leisurely saunter along. And this is true regardless of whether the walker is obese or at a healthier weight.
The difference in life expectancy between the tortoises and the hares is most notable in underweight individuals, where the researchers say quicker men lived 20 years longer, and women 15.
That gap narrowed at higher body mass indexes, down to a low of eight years longer for men and three years for women.
For the purposes of the study, a fast pace was defined as about 3 miles per hour, or 100 steps a minute. A stroll of between 1 and 2 miles per hour, or 50 steps a minute, was defined as slow.
Researchers say their results point to the possibility that physical function has more to do with longevity than body mass index. Everyone, regardless of waistline, benefits from a fast walk.
Researchers had previously found that middle-aged people who took their time when out on a stroll had a higher risk of heart disease, including being twice as likely to die of a heart-related ailment.
Scientists note a weakness of their current study is that walking pace was self-reported. Additionally, a slower gait might be a reflection of an underlying infectious or chronic disease, which could itself be a cause of an earlier demise.
But researchers are confident that a healthy habit when heading out for a stroll is to put the pedal to the metal.