People who regularly walk at a fast pace can slow down their biological ageing process by 16 years, a new study has identified.

Scientists from the University of Leicester found a connection between brisk walking and leucocyte telomere length (LTL), which is an indicator of biological aging.

During the study, the team of scientists examined the UK Biobank data from more than 405,000 middle-aged adults to assess their health outcomes after walking at a fast pace. Each participant wore a wearable device to track their walking pace.

The researchers detected that brisk walking was linked to longer telomeres, which are ‘caps’ at the end of each chromosome that store sequences of non-coding DNA to prevent damage.

When cells break up, telomeres become smaller. An accumulation of broken up cells is linked with frailty and age-related diseases, the study has reported.

Dr Paddy Dempsey said: “Previous research on associations between walking pace, physical activity and telomere length has been limited by inconsistent findings and a lack of high-quality data.

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

He added: “Data from wrist-worn wearable activity tracking devices used to measure habitual physical activity also supported a stronger role of habitual activity intensity in relation to telomere length.

“This suggests measures such as a habitually slower walking speed are a simple way of identifying people at greater risk of chronic disease or unhealthy ageing, and that activity intensity may play an important role in optimising 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.”

Prior research conducted by the University of Leicester has found that individuals who walk for 10 minutes every day at a fast pace are likely to live 20 years longer than people who walk slowly.

Fellow researcher, Professor Tom Yates said: “Whilst we have previously shown that walking pace is a very strong predictor of health status, we have not been able to confirm that adopting a brisk walking pace actually causes better health. In this study we used information contained in people’s genetic profile to show that a faster walking pace is indeed likely to lead to a younger biological age as measured by telomeres.”

The study has been published in the journal Communications Biology.

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Twice daily dairy intakes could reduce type 2 diabetes risk

Eating cheese, yoghurt or eggs twice a day could help lower the…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…

Top diabetes professor drafts risk assessment document for frontline COVID-19 staff

The health and wellbeing of frontline NHS staff has been prioritised among…