May 15 (UPI) -- Walking has always been a popular exercise to stay fit, but the speed a person walks may help them live longer, a study says.
People with body weight ranges that span from underweight to obese have a longer life expectancy if they walk more briskly compared to those in the same weight category who don't, according to research published this month in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
"Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals," Tom Yates, a researcher at the University of Leicester and study lead author, said in a news release.
The researchers studied data from the UK Biobank for more than 470,000 people. On average, slow walking underweight men and women lived the shortest life spans, at 64.8 years and 72.4 years, respectively.
"Studies published so far have mainly shown the impact of body weight and physical fitness on mortality in terms of relative risk," said Francesco Zaccardi, a clinical epidemiologist at the Leicester Diabetes Center and study co-author. "However, it is not always easy to interpret a 'relative risk.' Reporting in terms of life expectancy, conversely, is easier to interpret and gives a better idea of the separate and joint importance of body mass index and physical fitness."
A nine-year study from 2013 supports the new findings that a brisk walk can reduce cardiovascular risk and increase life expectancy.
"In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives," Yates said.