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Exercise brings countless benefits to the mind and body; namely burning fat and fortifying mental health. There is no shortage of studies that demonstrate its impact on longevity but knowing what to do and how much to do can seem bamboozling, particularly if you are starting out. Fortunately, you can add years to your lifespan without the need to invest in high-tech equipment or engaging in high-intensity exercise.
Research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings extolls the benefits of brisk walking, suggesting that the straight-forward exercise can boost your longevity by years.
What’s more, the finding was consistent across all body profiles.
The researchers monitored the walking habits and deaths of nearly 475,000 people, most of whom were in their 50s at the start of the study, and found that people who have a quicker walking pace lived longer than those who walked more slowly.
“Brisk walking” was defined by researchers as walking at least three miles per hour, or 100 steps a minute.
However, walking pace was self-reported by participants, who were asked to indicate whether they walked at a “slow pace,” “steady/average pace,” or “brisk pace.”
Participants with brisk walking paces had longer life expectancies across all categories of body mass index (BMI).
The BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.
“The survival is the same for fast walkers for a wide range of body mass index, from 20 to 40,” Dr Francesco Zaccardi, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and the study’s lead researcher, told Healthline.
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“This result indicates that physical function is a stronger determinant of longevity than body mass index, and also people with high body mass index but with good fitness may survive longer,” he said.
Conversely, participants with slower walking paces had shorter life expectancies across all categories of BMI.
Researchers reported that women who walked more quickly had a life span of about 87 years compared to 72 years for women who walked slowly.
Men who walked quickly had a life span of about 86 years compared to 65 years for men who walked more slowly.
That works out as a 15-year average difference for women and a 20-year average difference for men.
The importance of exercise
Exercise is integral to longevity because it provides a bulwark against obesity, which can usher in life-threatening diseases and conditions.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
Obesity can also undermine your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.
In addition to exercising regularly, it is vital that you eat a healthy, balanced diet to tackle obesity.
According to the NHS, a healthy diet should consist of:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Plenty of potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods (ideally you should choose wholegrain varieties)
- Some milk and dairy foods
- Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- Just small amounts of food and drinks that are high in fat and sugar.
“Try to avoid foods containing high levels of salt because they can raise your blood pressure, which can be dangerous for people who are already obese,” warns the the health body.
It adds: “You’ll also need to check calorie information for each type of food and drink you consume to make sure you don’t go over your daily limit.”
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