Health

Walking Like This Can Increase Your Risk of Falls and Even Take Years Off Your Life

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Taking an afternoon stroll with a partner or friend is a fun way to make working out seem like less of a chore. Although you get a two-for-one benefit by catching up with a loved one while getting your steps in, it might make your daily walks not as effective. New research suggests that walking alone for exercise can help increase your longevity and lower your risk of falls.

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A recent study published in Gait & Posture wanted to examine how the time it takes a person to walk a specific distance (also called gait speed) can be negatively impacted when walking with their romantic partner. This study included 141 people from 72 romantic couples. Participants were between 25 and 79 years old. Researchers measured the differences in gait speed when participants were walking alone, walking with their partner, and walking while holding hands with their partner. The study authors also tested out these walking experiments on a clear pathway and one that had obstacles.

Researchers found that with both pathway conditions, couples had a slower gait speed when talking together. Their walking speed was even further reduced when they were holding hands while navigating each pathway. When each person walked alone, they had better outcomes in maintaining their normal gait speed throughout the study.

Study co-author Elizabeth Richards, PhD, MSN, RN, CHES, provided an explanation as to why the results differed in a statement. “If someone substantially slows down when they are walking with someone else, that could negate some of the health benefits recognized if they walked alone at a faster pace,” she said.

Essentially, if you’re walking with someone else you’re both more likely to walk at the same pace. If they’re a slow walker, then you’ll adjust your pace to slow it down. Some of the downsides of a slower gait speed are an increased risk of falls along with declines in functional ability and longevity, according to study co-author Shirley Rietdyk, PhD. In the statement, she did reassure that your age doesn’t necessarily impact your walking speed because older adults who stay active tend to maintain it as they age.

Walking alone might seem a little boring without the company of your partner or a friend. But, grabbing your headphones and playing your favorite songs as you’re getting your steps makes this exercise more fun and effective for weight loss. Another tip to make your afternoon stroll more interesting is interval walking. This twist on walking involves changing up your pace and intensity while you’re walking to get a good workout in a short period of time. Even something as simple as getting the right amount of sleep (seven to eight hours is the sweet spot) can do wonders to ensure that you’re well rested enough to walk at your normal pace with no worries.

Enjoying a solo stroll through your neighborhood or local park sounds like the perfect way to sneak in some “me-time” throughout the holiday craze!

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