Help us: Donate
Follow us on:



Walking Pace Correlated with Increased Telomere Length

The analysis suggests that the causation is one-way.

Senior man walkingSenior man walking

Publishing in Nature Communications, Dr. Tom Yate, Dr. Neliesh J. Samani, and colleagues used data from approximately 400,000 people in the UK Biobank in order to examine the relationship between walking pace and telomere length.

Previous evidence suggests that increased physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with longer telomere length [1,2]. However, previous research linking lifestyle factors and telomere length are small and observational. The authors of this study sought to determine the association between self-reported walking pace and the telomere length of specific white blood cells known as leukocytes.

Study participants

The participants were an average of 56.5 years old, with a mean BMI of 27.2. 54% of the participants were female, and 95% of the participants were white. Descriptive statistical differences were seen between the slow, average, and brisk walkers. When compared to the slow walkers, the brisk walkers were slightly younger, more likely to have never smoked, were less likely to have mobility limitations and were less likely to be on cholesterol and/or blood pressure medication.

Slow walkers also reported engaging in less physical activity, had higher rates of obesity, and were more likely to live in a deprived living situation as measured by a multiple deprivation index when compared to the average and brisk walking groups. Accelerometer data was mostly comparable between the walking pace groups.

Walking pace was associated with telomere lengthΒ 

Compared to the slow walkers, the average and brisk walkers had significantly longer telomere length. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, the associations for average and brisk walkers were decreased. Factoring in self-reported total physical activity and BMI did not alter these results.

More steps were associated with telomere lengthΒ 

A secondary analysis performed on a subset of 86,002 participants utilized accelerometer data. Results showed that daily physical activity at a higher intensity was associated with longer telomere length. These associations remained even after adjusting for covariates. However, this association was not seen when examining total physical activity. The authors note how self-reported data for physical activity can have limitations, but nonetheless, the accelerometer subset data helped support the findings for walking pace.

Genomic analysis showed walking pace causally associated with telomere length

Using bi-directional Mendelian randomization analysis, no statistical association was shown between telomere length and walking pace genome-wide association (GWAS), regardless of BMI. However, when examined in the other direction, evidence suggested that walking pace is causally associated with telomere length. The authors mention that though Mendelian randomization can help determine causality, such results should be interpreted with caution.


This study implies that movement such as fast walking is associated with longer telomeres. For people without leg mobility issues, this could potentially be a promising intervention to improve healthspan and lifespan. The participants in this study were predominately white and healthy, so its results may not be applicable to all demographic groups.

While it does not conclusively prove causation, this study adds to a growing body of evidence that lifestyle factors affect telomere length. It will be exciting to see future research in this area.

We would like to ask you a small favor. We are a non-profit foundation, and unlike some other organizations, we have no shareholders and no products to sell you. We are committed to responsible journalism, free from commercial or political influence, that allows you to make informed decisions about your future health.

All our news and educational content is free for everyone to read, but it does mean that we rely on the help of people like you. Every contribution, no matter if it’s big or small, supports independent journalism and sustains our future. You can support us by making a donation or in other ways at no cost to you.

Dietary Magnesium in Dementia Prevention

Researchers publishing in the European Journal of Nutrition looked into magnesium as a possible candidate for preventing dementia, focusing on...

Glycine and Cysteine Combo Rescues Cognitive Decline in Mice

Scientists publishing in Antioxidants have reported that increasing glutathione levels with GlyNAC, a supplement that combines glycine and cysteine, significantly...

Vitalik Buterin Exclusive Interview: Longevity, AI and More

Vitalik Buterin holding Zuzu, the puppy rescued by people of Zuzalu. Photo: Michelle Lai Don’t try finding Zuzalu on a...

Centenarians Have Slightly Different Gut Ecologies

Researchers publishing in Nature Microbiology have determined that the viruses populating the intestines of centenarians are slightly different from those...


[1] Mundstock, E., Zatti, H., Louzada, F. M., Oliveira, S. G., Guma, F. T., Paris, M. M., Rueda, A. B., Machado, D. G., Stein, R. T., Jones, M. H., Sarria, E. E., BarbΓ©-Tuana, F. M., & Mattiello, R. (2015). Effects of physical activity in telomere length: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Ageing research reviews, 22, 72–80.

[2] Marques, A., Gouveira, Γ‰. R., Peralta, M., Martins, J., Venturini, J., Henriques-Neto, D., & Sarmento, H. (2020). Cardiorespiratory fitness and telomere length: a systematic review. Journal of sports sciences, 38(14), 1690–1697.

About the author


Tovah has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) for the past 11 years in clinical, research, teaching, community, and industry roles. Her dissertation work was focused on nutritional and behavioral neuroscience approaches for chronic disease prevention. She was a writer for from 2021-22 and is still an active volunteer with the org.
No Comments
Write a comment:


Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.