Sometimes you’re not in the mood for a physical exam, PET scan, or full genetic analysis—but you’d still like a ballpark sense of how you’re holding up. For that, there’s walking, says Stephanie Studenski, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh. Her study on ambulation among the elderly showed that the faster someone 65 years or older covered a short distance, the longer he or she could expect to live. “The difference was so dramatic,” said columnist Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe, “that the chance of living another ten years for 75-year-old men, depending on their gait speed, ranged from a low one-in-five chance to a nearly guaranteed nine-in-ten. For 75-year-old women, chances ranged from one in three to nine in ten.”
You can’t cheat the reaper by consciously trying to walk faster, Dr. Studenski says—speed is just a marker. But you can tune things up by picking up the pace while you’re still able. For that, a few tips from The Complete Guide to Walking: Take smaller, faster steps, not longer ones. Swing your arms faster (but don’t go crazy—keep them close to your side), and breathe naturally. Whether you choose to chew gum at the same time is up to you.