Can you walk and read at the same time? Great, up you get then – we’ll do this one on the move, and briskly. Quicker than that. Think: “West Wing corridor meetings.” Think: “Owner trying to keep up with Border Collie at Crufts without actually breaking into a run.”
Good, now keep that up as if your life depends on it. Because, in a way, it does. A new study has found that having a “brisk gait” can dramatically slow down ageing, to the extent that by the time a fast walker reaches midlife, their body will be the equivalent of 16 years younger than that of a “plodder”.
For the first time, researchers used data from the UK Bioband, a database containing the health information of half a million people, to reach their conclusion. According to the study’s lead author, Dr Paddy Dempsey, from the University of Leicester, it “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”.
This is good news for anybody with an interest in living longer and an aversion to more strenuous exercise or team sports. Brisk walking can, after all, be easily folded into our daily routine, doesn’t involve any equipment, is easier on the joints than running and can be accompanied by a call, or a podcast, or a friend.
It’s also news I’ve taken in my stride – given I am a person who walks wherever I can, for better or, more often, worse. To and from work, across the city to a Soho hotel to interview a C-list actor from an ITV period drama, back from nights out in the small hours… I’ll walk them all, and fairly nippily.
Does my insistence on never agreeing to get a taxi or bus after a long day regularly enrage anybody in my company? Absolutely. Do I arrive at many professional and social events unacceptably sweaty? Oh, you bet.