(TIME) — Slow walkers may have new reason to speed up their stroll.
New research says that walking fast may reduce your risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease. Slow walking may be less healthy.
The researchers used data from two large health surveys: the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. In total, they analyzed data provided by more than 50,000 English and Scottish adults, who self-reported their average perceived walking speed (slow, average, fairly brisk or fast) and other health metrics. They tracked these people for an average of nine years, during which time 3,617 people died. More than 1,000 of them died from cardiovascular disease.
This study could not definitively say if fast walking causes better health, or vice versa. It may simply be that fit, healthy people tend to walk faster than those who are ailing. But the researchers write in the paper that walking speed appears to affect mortality risk independent of total physical activity, perhaps thanks to “the increased relative exercise intensity” of walking fast. In other words, speedy stepping may strengthen the heart better than leisurely strolling, in keeping with long-standing associations between exercise and cardiovascular health.