Finally, there’s a concrete reason for your passive-aggressive huffing at pavement-dawdlers interrupting your lunchtime power walk: according to research from the University of Sydney, speeding up your walking pace could extend your life.
Walking at an average pace was found to be associated with a 20 percent risk reduction for mortality from any cause compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24 percent. Similar stats were found for the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease specifically, prompting researchers to suggest that public health campaigns should emphasise speeding up to safeguard health.
But…does that mean everyone should do it? Maybe not. Other studies indicate that regular walking improves cognition – possibly by improving blood flow to the brain and other areas – as well as reducing stress and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases. And research from a team at Stanford University suggests that walking in green and pleasant environments – from college campuses to local parks – decreased the activity in the prefrontal cortex that’s commonly linked with brooding. Or, in other words, taking a stroll somewhere tree-lined might actually aid mental health.
Are any of these effects diminished if you’re speed-walking? It’s tough to say, but upping the pace – the Sydney study suggests you’d need to be going 5-6km/hr, or getting ‘Out of breath and moderately sweaty’ to see the effect – isn’t exactly pleasant compared with a more calming, thoughtful stroll. The best bet, then, might be to enjoy your walks – through parks when you can – and save your cardio for the gym.