Walking Pace: Does Genetics Play A Role?

Latest Posts

Table of Contents

Walking Pace: Does Genetics Play A Role?

Date of Content: May 19, 2024
Written by: Avanthika Nityanand
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


Walking pace refers to the speed at which a person walks, typically measured in miles per hour (mph) or minutes per mile. It indicates how fast one covers a specific distance while walking. Walking pace can vary greatly among individuals based on age, fitness level, the purpose of walking (leisure vs. exercise), and environmental conditions.

The walking pace is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Health Monitoring: Walking pace can be a valuable indicator of our overall health and fitness. Research has shown that a faster walking pace is often associated with better cardiovascular health, lower risk of chronic diseases, and longer lifespan.
  2. Exercise Intensity: For walking to count as moderate-intensity exercise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a brisk pace to raise the heart rate and break a sweat. Typically, this is around 3 to 4 mph. Adjusting walking pace can help meet different fitness goals, from gentle rehabilitation to intense cardiovascular workouts.
  3. Weight Management: The speed of walking can significantly impact calorie burn. A faster walking pace can lead to higher calorie expenditure, which will help in weight loss and weight management.
  4. Goal Setting: Knowing our walking pace helps set and achieve fitness goals, such as improving speed or endurance. It can be a motivational tool, providing a precise measure of progress in physical fitness.
  5. Safety and Efficiency: Understanding and adapting appropriate walking pace can also ensure safety and efficiency, especially in different terrains and climates, helping walkers manage their energy over longer distances or while navigating challenging surfaces.
Walking pace

Can Genes Influence Walking Pace?

A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was conducted in 2020 on self-reported walking pace using data from 450,967 individuals of European ancestry in the UK Biobank. The study categorized walking pace into three levels: slow, steady/average, and brisk. It utilized a linear mixed model that included age, sex, the type of genotyping array, and 20 principal components of ancestry. Rigorous quality control and analysis of over 10 million imputed variants led to the identification of 144 significant SNPs across 70 genomic regions. Some of the genes and SNPs are discussed below:


The long name for the ADGRB2 gene is the Adhesion G Protein-Coupled Receptor B2 gene. In the context of walking pace, a genetic variant, rs12739999, in this gene was found to be associated with the walking speed. Although there is no mainstream research explicitly linking the function of ADGRB2 directly to walking speed, this gene could potentially influence this trait through its roles in the nervous system.

For example, a 2019 study of a consanguinous family showed a link between variants in the ADGRB3 gene, like the rs12739999, and cognitive impairments and ataxia. Ataxia is a condition characterized by a lack of muscle coordination that can affect various movements, such as walking, picking up objects, or speaking, making these activities appear clumsy or unsteady.


The SLC39A8 gene encodes a member of the solute carrier family 39 (SLC39), which is involved in transporting divalent metal cations, such as zinc and manganese, across the cellular membrane. This gene plays a critical role in essential mineral homeostasis within the body. According to the 2020 GWAS, the most significant genetic signal (SNP rs13107325) related to self-reported walking pace was in the SLC39A8 gene.


The DRD2 gene encodes for the dopamine receptor D2. This gene is crucial for the dopaminergic system in the brain, influencing behavior, reward, and motor control. The DRD2 SNP rs10750025 was found to influence walking pace in the 2020 GWAS.

The role of DRD2 in motor functions and coordination is a possible reason for its implication in walking pace. A 2018 randomized control trial showed that participants with the DRD2 Met/Met genotype significantly increased physical activity levels compared to those with lower dopamine signaling genotypes. 

In addition to simple genetic polymorphisms, such as the SNPs, other types of DNA alterations can have an association with a trait. A very intriguing 2021 study investigated a causal relationship between walking pace and telomere length (LTL) measured in leukocytes, the white blood cells. Researchers used data from UK Biobank participants recruited between March 2006 and July 2010 and categorized self-reported walking pace as slow, steady/average, or brisk and measured LTL through qPCR assay. The analysis included 405,981 adults, showing that individuals who walked at a steady/average or brisk pace had significantly longer LTL than those who were slow. It indicated a likely causal relationship between a faster walking pace and longer LTL, suggesting that increased walking pace could causally influence LTL elongation. This finding supports the idea that the health benefits of brisk walking may be partly due to its impact on biological aging processes, as indicated by telomere length.

LifeDNA Fitness Report covers close to 100 genetic markers related to walking pace.

Non-Genetic Factors Affecting Walking Pace

Several non-genetic factors can significantly influence our walking pace. These factors range from physiological conditions to environmental influences and each is crucial in determining how fast someone walks. Here are some of the key non-genetic factors affecting walking pace:

  1. Age: As individuals age, they often experience a decrease in muscle strength, joint flexibility, and balance, which leads to a slower walking pace.
  2. Fitness Level: Physically fit people generally have better muscle strength and endurance, which allows them to walk faster and for longer periods. Regular exercise can improve your walking pace over time.
  3. Health Conditions: Various health issues such as arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory ailments, or injuries can reduce mobility, thus slowing down our walking speed.
  4. Weight: Carrying excess body weight can strain the muscles and joints, making walking more laborious and slower. Conversely, those with a healthier body weight may find it easier to maintain a brisk pace.
  5. Footwear and Clothing: The type of shoes and clothes worn can affect walking speed. Comfortable, well-fitting shoes that provide good support can enhance walking pace. However, restrictive clothing and inappropriate footwear can hinder movement.
  6. Terrain and Environment: Walking on a smooth, flat surface allows for a faster pace when compared to walking on rough, uneven terrain. Environmental factors like high altitude or extreme weather conditions (hot, cold, or windy) can also impact how fast someone can walk.
  7. Psychological Factors: Motivation, energy levels, and mental health status, such as depression or anxiety, can influence walking pace. Someone energetic and motivated may walk faster than someone feeling low or disinterested.
  8. Social and Cultural Factors: Walking speed can vary culturally and socially. For instance, people in busy urban areas often walk faster when compared to those in rural settings. Social interactions and walking with a group can either speed up or slow down our pace, depending on the group dynamics.

What is the Average Walking Pace of a Human?

The average walking pace for a human is typically between 3 to 4 miles per hour (mph). This pace translates to about 1 mile every 15 to 20 minutes. The speed can vary based on several factors, including age, fitness level, terrain, and whether someone is walking leisurely or briskly. Younger individuals or those in better physical condition may naturally walk faster. Conversely, older adults or those with certain health conditions may walk more slowly. Environmental factors like walking uphill or on uneven surfaces can also affect one’s walking pace.

What is a Good Walk Pace?

A good walking pace elevates your heart rate and breathing but allows you to converse comfortably. For most people, this is around 3 to 4 mph. The recommended brisk walking pace for exercise is about 4 mph or faster. This pace maximizes cardiovascular benefits and calorie burning while being gentle for the joints. Regular brisk-pace walking can help improve overall physical fitness and endurance.

How Many Walking Steps Should You Take Per Day?

The recommended number of steps daily is 10,000, equivalent to about 5 miles. However, this target is not one-size-fits-all. The ideal number of steps can vary based on age, health status, and fitness goals. For some people, particularly older or less active people, starting with a goal of 5,000 steps per day may be more realistic and still provide health benefits. Gradually increasing the number of steps can help build stamina and reduce health risks without causing undue strain.

How to Calculate Walking Pace?

To calculate your walking pace, you need to divide the distance you have walked by the time it took you to walk that distance. For instance, if you walk 2 miles in 30 minutes, your walking pace is 2 miles divided by 0.5 hours, which equals 4 mph. Numerous mobile apps and pedometers can automatically calculate your walking pace by tracking your steps and the time spent walking, making it easier to monitor your pace in real-time.

How to Increase Walking Pace?

Increasing your walking pace can be achieved through several methods. 

  • First, focus on your posture; keep your back straight and head up to allow for efficient breathing. Engage your core and swing your arms to help propel your body forward. 
  • Gradually increase your pace by incorporating short bursts of faster walking into your regular walks, known as interval training. 
  • Over time, lengthen these faster intervals. Strength and flexibility exercises, especially for your legs and core, can also help increase your walking speed by improving your stride length and efficiency.

Can Speed Walking Help You Lose Weight?

Speed walking can significantly aid in weight loss by burning more calories than regular walking due to its higher intensity. For example, speed walking at about 4 to 5 mph increases your heart rate and metabolic rate, leading to higher calorie burn. Incorporating speed walking into a regular exercise regimen can help create a calorie deficit essential for weight loss. Moreover, it’s a low-impact exercise, making it suitable for a wide range of fitness levels and reducing the risk of injuries associated with higher-impact activities.

Can Walking Prevent A Heart Attack?

Regular walking can help prevent heart attacks by strengthening the heart, improving circulation, and by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s a form of moderate aerobic exercise that can enhance heart health by maintaining the elasticity of the arteries and stabilizing heart rhythms. While walking cannot completely prevent a heart attack, it is a vital part of a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking. Health professionals recommend regular brisk-pace walking for cardiovascular health.

Will Walking Help Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is characterized by pain in the heel and bottom of the foot, often caused by overuse and stress on the plantar fascia. While walking can be beneficial for managing plantar fasciitis, you must be cautious. Walking helps strengthen the muscles in the feet and legs. It can support the arch and reduce stress on the plantar fascia. However, it’s important to wear supportive shoes, avoid hard surfaces, and start slowly to avoid exacerbating the condition. Stretching and strengthening exercises tailored to plantar fasciitis can also enhance the benefits of walking.

LifeDNA Fitness Report

The LifeDNA Fitness Report offers a personalized analysis of how genetic factors can shape an individual’s fitness journey. The report provides insights into nearly 30 traits by utilizing cutting-edge genomic science, spanning aspects such as muscle composition, metabolism, injury risk, and exercise response. This information can empower you to tailor your fitness routine and nutritional plans to sync with your genetic makeup. The LifeDNA Fitness report covers genetics of Walking Pace. Get your report here.


Customer Reviews

Christopher Devlin
Christopher Devlin
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
I am so impressed with this service. I have even discussed these recommendations with my health care providers and they are all impressed too! I can’t compare it with other services as I have only tried this but I recommend. Also I think I pulled my genetics in from ancestry too which was super convenient.
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
Great source of information I was looking for a platform to make use of my existing raw data from Ancestry. I’m glad I found LifeDNA. I originally took a DNA test to learn about my roots and it’s great to know that my DNA could also play a big role in my health, diet, and even my skin. Overall, all the reports are incredible.
Shiraz Dole
Shiraz Dole
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
It is crazy how I felt that I had a strong understanding of my bodies needs, but after having my DNA analyzed by the LifeDNA team, I realized that there was so much I still did not know.
Doc Sheila Lim
Doc Sheila Lim
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
I got some pretty useful insight that helped me with my diet.

*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents on our website and our reports are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose any medical condition, replace the advice of a healthcare professional, or provide any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results. The testimonials featured may have used more than one LifeDNA or LifeDNA vendors’ product or reports.