Want to look and feel young? Take a brisk walk

Forget expensive anti-wrinkle treatments. A regular, brisk walk could help you find health, fitness and the fountain of youth.

Anyone who escaped the house for a much-needed walk during lockdowns knows just how powerful the act of putting one foot in front of the other can be.

But now walking, already Australia’s most popular recreational activity, has a new claim to fame, with UK researchers finding a clear link between walking pace and a genetic marker of biological age.

The study of 400,000 adults identified a causal link between walking pace and leucocyte telomere length, an indicator of biological age.

And the great news for regular walkers?

Researchers estimate a lifetime of speedy walking can lead to a person’s biological age being 16 years younger by midlife.

More great reasons to start walking

Dr Ben Rossiter, executive officer at health promotion charity Victoria Walks, says regular walkers have a much lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, arthritis, depression, anxiety and insomnia, and premature death from all causes.

“So we will certainly live longer if we’re healthier and active,” Dr Rossiter says.

Dr Rossiter says walking is a free and easy activity to build into our everyday lives.

“From that point of view, walking is the easiest way to combat our high levels of physical inactivity – and they’re pretty high in Australia.”

He says any walk is a great move, but a brisk walk is a definite bonus.

If we’re talking about physical health – a brisk walk increases our aerobic fitness and our endurance.”

How much should I walk for health benefits?

To get the benefit, Dr Rossiter says the recommendation is to do 150 minutes of brisk walking each week, across five days.

“But importantly, it doesn’t even have to be 30 minutes in one go.

“Three 10-minute lots of brisk walking throughout the day will have the same sort of impact as one 30-minute brisk walk.”

Walking inspires community spirit

House of Wellness co-host Jo Stanley, a lifelong runner, will later this month embark on a 30km walk – part of the Mornington Peninsula Coastrek event – with three friends.

She says she signed up because she likes setting goals and soaking up the community spirit of such events.

Plus, it was a great chance to spend some quality time with her girlfriends.

For Jo, walking is more of a meditative process than running.

“You have a lot more time with your thoughts, and time to take in your surrounds,” Jo says.

“But it’s a very different kind of challenge – different muscle groups and different mentally. I also would never run with a friend, but I absolutely love gas-bagging through a long hike with a girlfriend.”

Jo says walking is a fantastic option for people who have not exercised in a while.

“It’s easy on your joints, and you can do it anywhere, any time, and you control how hard you want to go.

“And you’d be amazed what beautiful soul-lifting things you see when you’re out walking.”

Written by Larissa Ham.