It’s a well-worn stereotype: LGBTQ people walk fast — but all that fast walking has big health benefits according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Researchers spoke to 474,919 people in the United Kingdom about their walking habits and found that those who walk faster also have a higher life expectancy overall.
Fast walkers showed a higher life expectancy no matter their weight or gender, with men seeing a life expectancy of 85.2 to 86.8 years overall. For women, the range was 86.7 to 87.8 years. For all other U.K. residents, the average lifespan is 80.9 years.
“Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals,” said lead author Tom Yates in a press release. “In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.”
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Interestingly, those in the study who were underweight and walked slow also had the shortest lifespan.
BMI has been widely criticized as a poor indicator of overall health, but remains a common diagnostic tool for many physicians.
“Studies published so far have mainly shown the impact of body weight and physical fitness on mortality in terms of relative risk, for example a 20 percent relative increase of risk of death for every 5 kilograms per meters squared increase, compared to a reference value of a BMI of 25 kilograms per meters squared (the threshold BMI between normal weight and overweight),” said co-author Francesco Zaccardi.
“However, it is not always easy to interpret a ‘relative risk,’” Zaccardi added. “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.”
So perhaps all those clichés about all of us walking faster than straights means more overall health benefits for our community overall.