The Cool Benefit of Walking Faster

I love research that makes me feel better about myself. For, example…I adore coffee. I will always click on headlines indicating I will live longer if I drink more coffee. I feel even better if the experts say this only applies to folks who drink it black. Now, I can also feel superior.

If you need a little extra motivation to get out the door and walk, check out the daily Walking is Fitness podcast. It’s like having a walking buddy for ten minutes every day.

Thing is, that smug feeling is only good for the moment. My grandfather, who lived to be 98, told me you gradually lose the ability to taste as you get older. I’m not sure if that’s true, but if it is that just feels cruel. I drink black coffee now so I can live long enough to not be able to taste my black coffee anymore. I no longer feel better or superior.

That’s the problem with so much health and fitness research…it always feels so future based. Do this hard thing now so you can get some bonus years when life is super hard. That doesn’t always feel like a nifty trade-off.

Of course, I’m being a little facetious because I think we all wonder if the health investments we make today really will pay off in the future…and, even if they do, will we be able to enjoy the benefits? I’m betting the answer to both questions is yes.

That’s why I misunderstood some new research I just saw. It’s the kind that makes me feel better about myself. The headline said I would live longer if I walked faster and I already walk pretty fast. People don’t enjoy walking with me unless I slow down. One friend even called my pace “a forced march.”

At first, I thought this was another of those “do this now and you’ll get extra years” later research. I eagerly dove into the details to feel better about myself. And, that’s when it hit me. This research wasn’t saying I would live longer…it was even better that that.

First, a little science.

The ends of our chromosomes have these things called telomeres. They’re kind of like the little plastic caps on our shoelaces. Apparently, these telomeres have a pretty big impact on the aging process. As they get shorter, we age. I suspect, it’s way more complicated than this, but that’s the picture painted in several of the sources I read.

But, the researchers discovered that people who walk faster have longer telomeres. In other words, people who walk fast aren’t aging as fast as they’re walking. In fact, the research indicates you can shave 16 years off your biological age if you walk faster.

(Before I venture any further, it’s important for you to understand, I’m not a doctor or medical researcher. My understanding of this new study is what I read in the media combined with this desire to find research that makes me feel better about myself. It’s also super important that if you want to shave time off your biological age by increasing your walking speed that you talk to your doctor before increasing the intensity of your workout.)

As I pondered the impact of this research, it made me feel really, really good. I walk fast. I always have. If accurate, my biological age RIGHT NOW could be 16 years younger than the age on my driver’s license. That feels like a pretty cool benefit.

I’m just hoping this “being younger” thing lasts long enough so I can still enjoy the taste of coffee during those bonus years I’m getting for drinking it black.

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