Forget Botox: Regular, Quick Walks Make You Look AND Feel 16 Years Younger By Middle Age

A lifetime of brisk walking can make you feel 16 years younger by the time you reach middle age, scientists say.

University of Leicester researchers who have studied the genes of 400,000 Britons have found a clear link between walking faster and a reduced biological age.

The fastest participants – defined as those who walked faster than 4 miles per hour – had longer telomeres, which are the “caps” at the end of each chromosome.

They contain repetitive DNA sequences that protect the chromosome from damage, similar to the way the cap on the end of a lace prevents it from fraying.

Each time a cell divides, these telomeres get shorter – to a point where they become so short that the cell can no longer divide.

Scientists see telomere length as an indicator of biological age, independent of when someone was born and linked to a number of symptoms we associate with aging such as frailty.

Based on the findings, the researchers estimate that a brisk walking life could reduce an individual’s biological age by up to 16 by middle age.

University of Leicester researchers who have studied the genes of 400,000 Britons have found a clear link between walking faster and a reduced biological age. The fastest participants – defined as those who walked faster than 4 mph – had longer telomeres, which are the “caps” at the end of each chromosome.

Physical activity expert and senior author of the study Professor Tom Yates said previous research has shown that walking pace is a “very strong predictor” of health.

The new findings confirm that adopting a brisk walking pace “actually causes better health” and is “likely to lead to a younger biological age,” he said.

The benefits of walking have been documented in dozens of studies.

Experts believe faster walking is an indicator of better musculoskeletal health, heart and lung fitness, activity levels, motivation, and mental health.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?

Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 are advised to exercise daily.

The NHS states that Brits should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity per week.

The advice is the same for disabled adults, pregnant women and new mothers.

Exercising just once or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Moderate activity includes brisk walks, water aerobics, biking, dancing, doubling down on tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, and skating.

Vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, cycling fast or up hills, climbing stairs, as well as sports such as soccer, rugby, netball, and hockey.

But the University of Leicester team said it’s unclear whether walking pace is linked to biological age – how old your body looks based on how your chromosomes have changed over time.

They studied 405,981 Britons, with an average age of 57, included in the British biobank, a database of patients monitored for 10 years and including genomic data.

About half of the participants (212,303) reported an average walking pace, which is rated at three to four miles per hour.

One in 15 (26,835) reported walking at a slow pace (less than three miles per hour), while four in 10 (166,843) reported walking at a fast pace (more than four miles per hour).

They also collected additional data from around 100,000 participants, who wore activity tracking devices on their wrists 24 hours a day for a week.

The results, published in the journal Communications biologyshow that faster walkers, regardless of how much they exercised, had longer telomeres.

Scientists do not fully understand the link between telomere length and disease.

But an accumulation of these cells is believed to contribute to frailty and age-related diseases, such as coronary heart disease and cancer.

Therefore, scientists view telomere length – scientifically known as leukocyte telomere length (LTL) – as a “strong marker” of biological age, regardless of when a person was born.

The difference in LTL between fast and slow walkers is “equivalent to a 16-year age-related difference,” the team said.

Dr Paddy Dempsey, a human physiologist and lead author of the study, said the findings suggest that those with routinely slower walking speeds are at greater risk for chronic disease or unhealthy aging.

In addition to increasing general walking to improve health, people should also aim to increase the number of steps they can complete in any given time, he said.

Dr Yates said: “While we have previously shown that walking pace is a very strong predictor of health, we have not been able to confirm that adopting a fast pace actually results in better health.

“In this study, we used information from people’s genetic profile to show that a faster pace is likely to lead to a younger biological age, as measured by telomeres.”

A team from the university previously used data from the UK biobank to show that as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking a day is linked to a longer life expectancy.

They also found that fast walkers have a life expectancy of up to 20 years longer than slow walkers.