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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
What walking speeds say about us
Walkers in London
Shopping means lots of walking
The world is walking faster than ever before, according to research by the British Council. So what can we learn about someone who walks quickly?

Things to do, people to meet. Rushing around is regarded as an acceptable hazard of city living.

But an international study commissioned by the British Council suggests urban populations are walking faster and faster, and putting their health in danger in the process.

Researchers in 35 city centres timed how long it took 70 people unencumbered by phones, shopping and companions to walk 60 feet.

Singapore came top of the table, followed by Copenhagen, Madrid and Guangzhou in China. London was outside the top 10 and overall speeds were 10% higher than the previous study in the early 1990s.

"The key conclusion is that the world is speeding up," says Professor Richard Wiseman, who headed the study.

1: Singapore
2: Copenhagen
3: Madrid
4: Guangzhou
5: Dublin
And in the UK:
12: London
20: Belfast
21: Edinburgh
32: Cardiff
"Pace around the world is 10% faster than ever before. That's not great for our health. As people speed up in their lives they are not eating properly, exercising or seeing friends and family. All these things can lead to all kinds of things, especially heart attacks."

People who walk fast are also more likely to speak and eat quickly, wear a watch and get impatient, he says. They don't like to sit still, sit in traffic or wait in queues.

The professor believes the increased pace of life is driven by technology and the way people are constantly in touch with each other.

"We're just moving faster and faster and getting back to people as quickly as we can - and that's minutes and not hours. That's driving us to think everything has to happen now."

Unhealthy society

And conclusions can also be drawn about the cities. London, for example, is more likely to have faster service in its shops than Cardiff and more accurate public clocks.

Family walking
People are walking less than before
The correlation between walking speed and heart disease is very close, says Professor Wiseman. Although walking is a good means of exercise, the problem is the unhealthy things a fast-moving society makes people do.

People can test their pace of life on his website, quirkology (see Internet links on the right), and he suggests those who generally find it difficult to wait, queue or sit still can ease their anxiety by listening to music or chatting.

But fitness and diet expert Joanna Hall says this study should not be misinterpreted as meaning walking is unhealthy.

"For the vast majority of people, walking is the most accessible way to bring healthy benefits to lives that may find it hard to be healthy in other ways."

Good posture
Comfortable shoes, not heels
A good pace should leave a walker slightly out of breath
No dawdling or going fast enough to nearly jog
No mobile phone use or shopping bag on one shoulder
Source: Joanna Hall
Walking can strengthen the heart and lungs, reduce the risk of a stroke and diabetes, keep weight off and even lower the chance of suffering depression, she says. But as a society we are walking less because of increased car use.

"It would be sad if people were to think walking was bad. We have a responsibility now to do what Jamie Oliver has done for schools and food.

"We can change our society. Links have been clinically proven between people that don't have physical activity and exercise and behavioural problems and poor educational standards. These are major social issues that go beyond the shape of people's bottoms."

A selection of your comments appears below.

For some of us walking fast isn't a lifestyle choice. I'm well over six feet tall and walk fast purely because my legs are so long!
James Walker, Leeds, UK

I used to walk fast, eat fast, speak fast, spend fast, work fast, shake hands fast, answer the phone fast, shower fast, meet friends fast, lose friends fast, travel the world fast, study fast, go to war fast, and in the end... nothing but health problems including stroke and total physical and mental burnout. Was it worth it? NO! If you don't have your health, you have nothing! Carry on...
Sloth, Tampa, Florida USA

All the comments seem to be from people who walk fast, and agree its not a bad thing. I walk fast too, unfortunately, and I think its a pity, coz we don't really have the time to stand and stare. If we just slowed down a little, and took notice of what's going around us, we'd be happier people.
Rinks, London

I started walking to work (three miles, and my only exercise) because there wasn't a sensible bus route. Then I started jogging it, because that lets me leave the house a little later. Weight down, pulse down, cholesterol down, never been fitter. Try it.
Joe, Birmingham, UK

It seems presumptuous to assume that walking fast equals a fast-paced life, and I really don't think this can always be the case for the fast walkers of this world. I've been a speedy walker since childhood - not because I'm impatient, but because I enjoy walking fast and get to enjoy the extra leisure time that my quick walk back from walk allows me. Now surely that's good for you health?
Jo, London

I am the youngest of five children. I had to keep up with my big brothers and sisters or be left behind. Consequently I walk very fast. I don't notice it until someone's panting away when they are walking with me. My three children all walk fast too. However, whilst I walk fast and lead a busy life, I can wait patiently in a queue - I'm English after all!
Sarah, London

This story is absolute rubbish. Walking fast is bad for you? What nonsense. Walking fast is an excellent aerobic exercise - and it's essential to go faster to burn calories. There may be a correlation between the other unhealthy aspects of lifestyle and heart disease, but to claim walking fast is one of the causes or a linked symptom of these other bad things is just idiotic. It's all very well to advise relaxing and not getting stressed, but walking is excellent exercise. One doesn't need to be a professor to know what a load of tripe this 'theory' is - particularly when we need to be encouraging exercise, not encouraging people to sit on their overweight behinds!
Bob Wade, Bath, UK

I would lay some dispute at the foot of these spurious claims. I am a very fast walker; not due to impatience, or because I need things "now". It's just the way I walk. At home, I'm happy to lie still, at the shops I'm happy to queue until I'm served. Another stereotype by over-funded sociologists.
Gary Erwin, Belfast, Northern Ireland

I think walking fast is good for you. I work in the City and try and walk quickly to work every day, and find it very frustrating when my path is blocked by slowcoaches who are inconsiderate and don't give way, but take up the entire path in groups of twos or threes. More often or not these will be outsiders who are not aware of the norms of fast paced workers wanting to get to their desks on time. Being forced to walk slowly in this way makes me stressed and I am sure it is not good for me!
Bilal Patel, London, UK

Surely those who walk faster are actually getting -more- exercise, since they are working their cardiovascular system harder than someone walking more slowly? Or did I miss something really obvious?
Steve, UK

I break the pattern described in the article. After 16 years of living in Washington DC, I walk fast - three miles in an hour. But when I drive, I obey speed limits, drive politely, wait patiently at traffic lights, and don't mind standing in line when shopping. And I don't own a cell phone or a watch! Go figure.
Erin Loftus, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

I walk fast to get from one place to another in the shortest possible time, thus when I get there I can spend more time doing what I want to. Walking (like all transport) is a means to an end, the less time we spend travelling, the more time we have doing. If walking in the country I would walk much slower to take in the surroundings (walking and doing at the same time!).
Wil Ker, Macclesfield

Why walking speed could be a health indicator

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