Brisk walking may slow down aging, study finds

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Scientists from the University of Leicester found a clear link between walking pace and a genetic marker of biological age. They examined genetic data of more than 400,000 UK adults.

The team confirmed a causal link between walking pace and leucocyte telomere length (LTL) and estimated that a lifetime of brisk walking could lead to the equivalent of 16 years younger biological age by midlife.

The research is published in Communications Biology and was conducted by Dr. Paddy Dempsey et al.

In the study, the team analyzed genetic data from 405,981 middle-aged UK Biobank participants.

They found that a faster walking pace, independent of the amount of physical activity, was associated with longer telomeres.

Scientists consider LTL a strong marker for “biological age,” independent from when an individual was born.

This research uses genetic data to provide stronger evidence for a causal link between faster walking pace and longer telomere length.

Data from wrist-worn wearable activity tracking devices used to measure habitual physical activity also supported a stronger role of habitual activity intensity (e.g. faster walking) in relation to telomere length.

The team says measures such as a habitually slower walking speed are a simple way of identifying people at greater risk of chronic disease or unhealthy aging, and that activity intensity may play an important role in optimizing interventions.

For example, in addition to increasing overall walking, those who are able could aim to increase the number of steps completed in a given time (e.g., by walking faster to the bus stop). However, this requires further investigation.

This new study demonstrates a causal link between brisk walking and telomere length and, significantly, not the other way around.

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