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New research has found that older people who walk for transport may live longer.

Walking for transport helps older people to live longer

A new study has found that older adults who walked for transport at least once a week lived longer than those who didn't.

A Monash University study looked at transport-related walking, which is walking for a specific purpose, such as to a medical appointment or to shop, instead of using motorised transport like buses or cars. Recreational walking was not assessed in the study.

Of the participants, all of whom were 70 or over, walking for transport at least once a week was associated with around 25 per cent lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who never walked for transport purposes.

The results also emphasised the importance of public awareness about the benefits of creating safe neighbourhood environments that promote walking for transport.

Researchers examined the frequency of transport-related walking and mortality in the initially healthy Australian participants, who had a mean age of 75.

Study co-author Shivangi Shah said earlier research has already established that walking undertaken as a means of transport may prolong the lives of younger and middle-aged adults.

Ms Shah said until now, evidence about transport walking in initially healthy older adults, free of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and independence-limiting physical disability, was scarce.

"It’s important to engage in any type of physical activity, and building muscle strength and healthy bones through physical activity are especially important as we age to help improve our balance and prevent falls," she said.

"Our results suggest that walking for transport will have health benefits for older people.

"Any move is a good move. Even one extra minute is better than nothing. But physical activity does need to be tailored to each person’s capacity."

Forty-four per cent of participants engaged in transport-walking every day, 31.5 per cent walked more than once a week, 21.7 per cent rarely or once a week, and 2.7 per cent never did it.

The study also stated it was likely that the greatest health benefit may be achieved by people who move from never engaging in walking for transport to walking rarely or once a week for transport.

This aligns with past studies that have shown that the greatest improvement in health status is seen when taking people who are doing no activity to doing some physical activity.

The results of this study show the risk of all-cause mortality was lower for those who walked for transport compared to those who never did.

Senior author associate professor Danijela Gasevic said the results underlined the importance of good public infrastructure and government campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles.

"Walking and physical activity generally are really important for our health and wellbeing; they have environmental and economic benefits, and they can help build social and community connections," Professor Gasevic said.

"Transport walking is simple, free and does not need specialist training, making it sustainable and accessible for older people.

"However, to walk more for transport, we really need good infrastructure for walking – paths and roads connecting places and spaces – and safe environments."

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