Staying young and healthy, even as the years pass, is everyone's dream. So much so that there are countless books, stories and legends that have arisen around the myth of eternal youth. Of course, it is not possible to live forever young, but what if it turns out that at our disposal we have a very simple tool that allows us to turn the clock back even 20 years? Well, this tool exists and is given by… our feet, as long as we use them for a brisk walk every day. This is what emerges from a very recent, and very fascinating, research published in the Communications Biology journal of the prestigious Nature group by a team from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom (Dempsey et al, Communications Biology, Apr 2022).
Brisk walking rejuvenates by 20 years
The same research group had already observed that those who walk briskly, even for just ten minutes each day, have a longer life expectancy than those who walk at a slow pace. Scientists could also estimate this effect. In fact, they came to the conclusion that walking at a fast pace can lead to an extension of life expectancy even up to 20 years. It quickly becomes clear that this is an incredible achievement. In fact, what emerged is that a daily walk at a brisk pace makes time go backwards! And that at 45 years old, the age taken into consideration in the study, those who have always walked at a brisk pace have a biological age of 20 years lower than those who have always walked at a slow pace. However, the scientists in this first research failed to understand the reason for what they observed. And this is where the new research comes into play.
Walking at a brisk pace lengthens telomeres and slows down aging
Scientists have processed the genetic data of 405 981 people, comparing them with their lifestyle, in particular with the walks that these people used to take. Physical activity data were obtained through devices worn by the study participants and questionnaires. What emerged was that brisk walking is associated with a greater telomere length of leukocytes, considered a true indicator of biological age. Telomeres are caps located at the end of chromosomes and which are intended to protect them, just like the rigid end of shoelaces. When the cell divides the telomeres ensure that the chromosomes are not damaged. However, this has a cost. In fact, telomeres get shorter with each cell division. This process continues until the telomeres become too short and can no longer shorten. The cell becomes senescent and begins to cease its functions. The higher the number of senescent cells, the higher the risk of age-related diseases, in short, we get older. Therefore, those with longer telomeres are biologically younger, regardless of age, than those with shorter ones, as their cells can divide a greater number of times, ensuring their functionality for a longer period of time. The researchers also noted a noteworthy fact. In other words, that brisk walking is associated with longer telomeres but that the opposite association is not valid, therefore, in this case, genetics and heredity do not play a role but everything depends only on our lifestyle.
So, when we go to the bus stop tomorrow, let's try to do it, if possible, at a faster pace. This does not have to do with the typical rush of our society but only with a matter of health. By walking a little faster we are actually rejuvenating, science says.