Those that like to walk regularly for exercise may already know that brisk walking is closely linked with a longer life, but they may not know why…

It’s long been known that brisk walking (loosely defined as walking just fast enough that you can still talk but can’t sing) on a daily (or regular) basis can be one of the best ways to lengthen your life – by up to 20 years!

Recent research indicates that at least one of the reasons why is that brisk walking for at least 2.5 hours per week can offset the negative effects of poor quality sleep, which are linked to a myriad of health issues, including heart disease and cancer.

Walking for Health

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and was a pooled analysis of health data from more than 380,000 people over the course of 11 years. The researchers concluded that brisk walking for 2.5 hours per week – or running for 1.25 hours (1 hour and 15 minutes) per week – seemed to “eliminate most of the deleterious associations” of poor sleep on your risk of early death.

What’s more, the research also showed that if you get poor quality sleep and you don’t exercise, you’re nearly 60% more likely to die early compared to someone that exercises and sleeps well. People that slept poorly and didn’t exercise were also nearly 70% more likely to get heart disease and had a 45% higher risk of developing cancer.

This study is a good reminder that the pillars of health – including sleep, exercise and diet – are related and must balance one another to improve overall fitness. If you exercise regularly, chances are you’ll sleep better and make better food choices. If you sleep better, you’ll likely make better decisions, which includes choosing to exercise and eat better. However, even if you don’t regularly get good quality sleep, this study indicates that you can still do something to improve your health by choosing to get a brisk walk in every day.