Posts tagged with "Study Finds"

‘Super-recognizers’ never forget a face. Now, scientists have uncovered how they do it.

March 15, 2023

Making up just 2% of the population, “super-recognizers” may be the closest we ever get to people with real-life superpowers. They never forget a face, and all they need is a moment or two to commit a new person to their memories. Many are known to help police departments and security agencies to identify suspects, while others work as private detectives and unofficial investigators.

Now, fascinating new research out of Australia is finally revealing how super-recognizers accomplish such feats, reports Study Finds.

Until recently, researchers had largely believed that super-recognizers had such good recall of faces because they processed them holistically—taking a facial snapshot and memorizing it.

However, scientists from UNSW Sydney and the University of Wollongong, have now proven that super-recognizers look at faces the same way anyone else does—but they do so more rapidly and in a more accurate manner.

According to UNSW researcher and study lead author Dr. James Dunn, when a super-recognizer catches a glimpse of a new face, he or she divides it into parts and then store each component in his or her brain as composite images.

“They are still able to recognize faces better than others, even when they can only see smaller regions at a time. This suggests that they can piece together an overall impression from smaller chunks, rather than from a holistic impression taken in a single glance,” Dr. Dunn says in a statement.

Meanwhile, co-lead study author Dr. Sebastien Miellet, UOW researcher in the School of Psychology and an expert in active vision, used eye-tracking technology to investigate and analyze how super-recognizers scan and process faces, both as a whole and divided into parts.

“With much precision, we can see not only where people look but also which bits of visual information they use,” Dr. Miellet notes.

While studying the visual processing patterns of super-recognizers, researchers found that, contrary to typical recognizers, super-recognizers focus less on the eye region and distribute their gaze more evenly. This helps them gather more visual information from other facial features, especially when learning a new face.

“So the advantage of super-recognizers is their ability to pick up highly distinctive visual information and put all the pieces of a face together like a puzzle, quickly and accurately,” Dr. Miellet comments.

Moving forward, scientists at both UNSW and UOW will continue to study super-recognizers. Dr. Miellet posits that super-recognizers’ abilities may stem from a certain curiosity and behavioral interest in other people. Alternatively, super-recognizers may be more empathetic than most of us.

“In the next stages of our study, we’ll equip some super-recognizers and typical viewers with a portable eye tracker; and release them onto the streets to observe, not in the lab but in real life, how they interact with the world,” Dr. Miellet concludes.

The study has been published in the journal, Psychological Science.

 Research contact: @StudyFindsorg

Drinking even a little alcohol while pregnant may change the shape of a baby’s face

March 13, 2023

How much alcohol a mother drinks before and during pregnancy could determine the shape of her child’s face, a new study has determined. According to researchers at Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, pregnant women who imbibe just one medium glass of wine (175ml) or one 12-ounce beer a week could change their child’s future appearance, reports Study Finds.


They add that the new findings are particularly illuminating, because a child’s face shape can be an indication of health and developmental problems. If a fetus is exposed to alcohol, the child may be left with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This is a combination of developmental deficits, neurological impairment, and recognizably abnormal facial development.


Common changes in facial features can include a turned-up nose tip, shortened nose, turned-out chin, or a turned-in lower eyelid. Health-related symptoms include cognitive impairment, ADHD, learning difficulties, memory problems, behavioral problems, and speech and language delays. 


FASD is already known to be consequence of a mother’s drinking habits during pregnancy, with a particular link to heavy drinking. However, until now, little was known about the effect of low alcohol consumption on children’s facial development and their future health. 


“We found a statistically significant association between prenatal alcohol exposure and face shape in the nine-year-old children. The more alcohol the mothers drank, the more statistically significant changes there were. The most common traits were turned-up nose tip, shortened nose, turned-out chin and turned-in lower eyelid,” says study first author and PhD student Xianjing Liu, part of the group that developed the AI algorithm.


“Among the group of mothers who drank throughout pregnancy, we found that, even if mothers drank very little during pregnancy, less than 12g a week, the association between alcohol exposure and children’s facial shape could be observed. This is the first time an association has been shown at such low levels of alcohol consumption.”

“I would call the face a ‘health mirror’ as it reflects the overall health of a child. A child’s exposure to alcohol before birth can have significant adverse effects on its health development and, if a mother regularly drinks a large amount, this can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, which is reflected in children’s faces,” adds Gennady Roshchupkin, assistant professor and leader of the Computational Population Biology group at the Erasmus Medical Centre.


Researchers used artificial intelligence and deep learning to discover this link. They analyzed 3D images of children taken at the ages of nine and 13. There were just over 3,000 images of nine-year-olds and almost 2,500 images of 13-year-olds.


The children were part of the Generation R Study in The Netherlands, an ongoing population-based study of pregnant women and their children from fetal life onwards. The babies were born between January 2006 and April 2009.


“The face is a complex shape and analyzing it is a challenging task. 3D imaging helps a lot, but requires more advanced algorithms to do this,” says Professor Roshchupkin. “For this task, we developed an AI-based algorithm, which takes high-resolution 3D images of the face and produce 200 unique measurements or ‘traits.’ We analyzed these to search for associations with prenatal alcohol exposure and we developed heat maps to display the particular facial features associated with the mothers’ alcohol consumption.”


The mothers filled out questionnaires in early, mid, and late pregnancy to find out how much alcohol they drank. Researchers then divided the women into three groups: mothers who didn’t drink before or during pregnancy; those who drank during the three months before becoming pregnant, but stopped when they became pregnant; and women who drank when they were pregnant.


This final group included those who only drank during the first trimester of pregnancy and those who continued to drink throughout the entire pregnancy. The nine-year-olds showed a significant link between the change in their face shape and their mothers’ history of drinking.

The children of those who drank during the first trimester but stopped and those who continued to drink were very similar, according to the findings. The results also show that the first three months of pregnancy were the most influential when it comes to the effects of alcohol consumption. The association between alcohol consumption and face shape weakened in the older children.


“It is possible that as a child ages and experiences other environmental factors, these changes may diminish or be obscured by normal growth patterns. But that does not mean that alcohol’s effect on the health will also disappear. Therefore, it is crucial to emphasize that there is no established safe level of alcohol

consumption during pregnancy and that it is advisable to cease drinking alcohol even before conception to ensure optimal health outcomes for both the mother and the developing fetus,” Professor Roshchupkin concludes.


The team notes that their study, published in the journal, Human Reproduction, cannot definitively prove that alcohol consumption causes the changes in face shape, only that there is an association with it.


Research contact: @StudyFinds

Can’t skip dessert? Your personality may influence your cravings.

February 27, 2023

If you cannot avoid that extra scoop of ice cream for dessert, you are far from alone. Nearly two in five (37%) people say they have a bigger sweet tooth now than they did as a kid, reports Study Finds.

It turns out personality and marital status may even play a role in how you feel about dessert. The survey of 2,000 U.S. adults reveals that there could be more than just taste buds that influence how we feel about sugary foods.

Introverts vs. extroverts

When comparing respondents who are introverts to those who are extroverts, researchers report that nearly half (49%) of extroverts claim their craving for sweets has increased since childhood.

More self-reported introverts than extroverts prefer chocolate desserts (46% vs. 31%), according to the study findings—and introverts also are much more likely to eat sweets in the morning (33% vs. 15%).

And if you’re an introvert, chances are your parents “always” or “often” let you eat desserts as a child (71%). That may be why introverts are more likely than extroverts to order from the dessert menu when eating out (61% vs. 50%).

Optimists vs. pessimists

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Nothing Bundt Cakes for the launch of the latter’s new Oreo Cookies & Cream cake, the survey also discovered how optimists and pessimists differ in their dessert preferences.

Those with an optimistic viewpoint overwhelmingly preferred sweet over sour treats (77% vs. 51% percent of pessimists). And if you tend to have a gloomy outlook, you’re more likely to go for a sour treat than someone with a sunny disposition (20% vs. 7%).

Furthermore, a positive outlook on life may indicate a greater propensity toward a portion of cake (46% vs. 29%). Overall, more than two in five (42%) say cake is their favorite dessert.

Most respondents developed a greater openness toward new desserts going into adulthood, with 73% eating sweets they never tried as a kid.

Married vs. single

Additionally, the research looked into the social aspects surrounding desserts and found that 41% of those with a partner or spouse have a favorite dessert in common.

Seven in ten (73%) said that knowing someone’s favorite dessert indicates a certain closeness. To that end, nearly half (48%) would try a dessert they don’t usually like if offered one by a close friend, and an equal amount said their pal would do the same.

Sharing is caring for 58% of respondents, who “always” or “often” share their desserts with someone else. “Whether you save a slice for someone else or have it all for yourself, our research shows 42% say cake is their favorite dessert, indicating its timelessness,” says Nothing Bundt Cakes Chief Marketing Officer Angie Eckelkamp, in a statement.

The average person polled eats about three desserts per week and has just as many different types of sweets at home.

“Cakes have long been a birthday staple, but we’ve seen cakes become the centerpiece for occasions year-round, as well as ‘just because’ or everyday treats. So, it makes sense to see cakes listed as the top vote-getter for desserts, no matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert,” adds Eckelkamp. “And while classics like strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla topped the list of respondents’ favorite flavors, we were excited to see cookies and cream also featured within the top ten.”

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Time to go! Holiday guests officially overstay their welcome after four days

December 27, 2022

Thinking of hosting friends and family overnight this holiday season? You may want to think twice, reports Study Finds.

A survey of 2,000 Americans (split evenly by generation) commissioned by Serta Simmons Bedding and conducted by OnePoll has found that those hosting friends and family during the holidays lose 2.5 hours of sleep per day when preparing to have others in their home. Of all the generations, Gen Z are the most likely to lose at least four hours of sleep per day while prepping for guests.

Usually, 32% of respondents say they’re both hosts and guests at some point during the holidays, while one in six only host people or only stay as guests. Specifically, Gen Z respondents are most likely to host guests, while Millennials are among the top to stay over as guests.

For those who want to ensure that they are not overstaying their welcome, 49% of respondents think spending four days or more as a guest is too long. Guests seem to be mindful of this unspoken rule. When hosting others, 79% say their guests stay four nights or less.

As guests, Gen Z (70%) and Baby Boomers (85%) aren’t shy. When staying with their partner at their family’s home, they’re less likely to feel awkward about sleeping in the same bed compared to Gen Xers (30%) and millennials (31%).

But, no matter how long people spend visiting their loved ones during the festive season, results found it can affect respondents’ sleep in various ways. Those who are guests during the holidays report that their sleep schedule was disrupted—75% felt compelled to go to sleep and wake up at the same time as their hosts. This was especially true for younger guests: 83% of Gen Z guests match their hosts’ sleep schedule, compared to only 61% of Baby Boomer guests.

What’s more—regardless of whether they’re sleeping in their own bed or not—more than a third of respondents (34%) say the holidays are the most sleepless time of the year. Younger respondents were more likely to agree: 40% of Gen Z and Millennials say it’s the most sleepless time, compared to 31% of Gen X and just 24% of Baby Boomers.

Some of the top reasons include excitement for the season (33%), stress around prepping for guests (25%); indulging in too many holiday treats, and holiday movie marathons (21% and 20%, respectively).

Thirty percent of guests actually bring their own bedding when staying over, with Millennials most likely to do so (37%). Another 12% want to but are worried about offending their host. Although, those who are worried about offending the host, don’t need to be, as seven in 10 Americans shared that they wouldn’t feel very insulted, if at all.

When it comes to additional adjustments to get ready for guests, only 7% of hosts hide valuables, while 25% of guests admit they would snoop in the nightstand. Of guests surveyed, Gen Zers are the most likely to snoop in nightstands (30%), compared to just 16% of Baby Boomers.

And finally, when it comes to guests, Baby Boomers are most likely to always clean up after themselves when staying over at someone’s home (72%).

Research contact: @StudyFindsorg

Getting a leg up: Compression socks do more harm than good for runners

December 16, 2022

Compression stockings, a popular fashion choice among runners, actually might be hurting their performance, based on the findings of new research conducted in Sweden. Instead, investigators found that the tight fabric reduced the amount of oxygen a runner’s lower leg muscles receive, reports Study Finds.


Compression socks place pressure on the lower legs with the intended purpose of maintaining blood flow. Gentle squeezing from the stockings is intended to push blood flow up the leg, which can reduce muscle soreness and allow your legs to recover quicker. While companies advertise the garments as a performance enhancer, researchers at the University of Gothenburg beg to differ. 


  “There have been a few studies in the past on the effect of compression stockings, but the results have been contradictory,” says Sophia Halldin Lindorsson, a specialist in Orthopedics at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, in a university release. “Our study is the first in which the intramuscular oxygenation and pressure have been measured before, during and after running.”


  The team recruited 20 experienced runners and instructed them to run 6.3 miles on a treadmill. Participants ran two times—once with compression stockings and once without. A catheter recorded the intramuscular pressure in the front muscle of the lower leg. Sensors attached to the skin recorded local oxygenation in the muscles.


Wearing compression socks caused a noticeable increase in pressure in the lower-leg muscles. Running with compression stockings caused an average intramuscular pressure of 22 mm/Hg (millimeter of mercury). Compression stockings also reduced the amount of oxygen going towards the muscles by 11% when compared to the run without compression socks.


“This finding, along with the reduced oxygenation in the musculature, supports previous theories that compression stockings have no performance-enhancing effect in healthy people,” explains Lindorsson.


The study authors note the findings are only related to compression stockings for running. Previous studies have found that medical compression stockings may help certain patients improve their blood circulation by increasing pressure in the leg. Doing so has been shown to help prevent blood clots and swelling.


Beyond the average runner, the research team looked at the benefits of compression socks for people diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome. People with this disorder experience excess pressure in their lower leg muscles during exercise. The abnormally high pressure leads to uncomfortable swelling and muscle pain.


“Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is a pain condition that many people probably suffer from without knowing. It’s also often missed when they see the doctor, probably because the pain goes away at rest,” Lindorsson says.


“I’ve met a lot of patients who have had pain in their lower legs from exertion for as long as they can remember, and thought they had to live with it. But there’s an operation that helps, and my research have shown that the treatment has good results. If more people knew about this diagnosis, a lot of them would avoid unnecessary suffering.” 


The study is published as part of Lindorsson’s doctoral thesis for the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.


Research contact: @StudyFinds

A simple ‘good morning’ ranks among top ‘good deeds’ to brighten another’s day

September 12, 2022

Three-quarters of Americans believe that, if they do a good deed, the next person will pay it forward—based on a survey of 2,000 people, in which most define a “good deed” as an action that makes someone else feel good (64%), reports Study Finds.

Moreover, nearly half of respondents say that they believe a good deed is something that benefits another individual, regardless of whether they personally know them or not (46%).

Among the good deeds that are most likely to turn the recipients day around are the following:

  • Helping someone with a task (61%),
  • Donating to somebody who is in need (59%),
  • Saying “good morning” (53%), and
  • Holding a door open for someone (53%).

Nearly nine in 10 also contribute to a charity in some way and feel better about themselves when they do so. Plus, those who give back are almost twice as likely to say they’re satisfied with their lives.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Walgreens. Results show that good deeds are rewarding and can have hidden mental and physical health benefits causing the people who perform them to feel happy (92%), relaxed (77%), and healthy (71%).

In fact, according to nine in ten Americans, the best reward may be the good deed itself. Respondents donate an average of $168 annually and almost all admit they donate more during the holiday season than at other times of the year. On average, people add on an extra $404 during the holidays.

The vast majority of those who donate are more likely to focus their efforts on a local group rather than a national charity or nonprofit organization (92%). Two-thirds believe this will have a bigger impact and three in five believe it’s more trustworthy.

The spirit of giving inspires some to focus on holiday-specific causes, including charities that distribute toys to children in need.

“Our data show that more than half of those who donate choose health-related charities,” says Maria Smith, Vice President of Payments & Financial Services at Walgreens, in a statement. “It’s also interesting that those same consumers prioritize their shopping at retailers that share their values and support causes they believe in.”

Eight in 10 respondents say they’re more likely to shop for a specific product or at a particular store when they believe it will benefit a cause they care about. Despite this sentiment, three in four Americans wish the companies and the products they chose made it easier to give more.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Study: Your posture can affect how your stomach absorbs the medication in pills

August 15, 2022

Does the efficacy of medicine come down to your posture? Researchers  at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have found that a person’s posture while taking pills can affect how his or her stomach absorbs the drugs, reports Study Finds.

Using a state-of-the-art “StomachSim”—a simulator based on the realistic anatomy of the human stomach—to analyze and quantify how effective medicines that people need to swallow, the scientists established that the bioavailability of a drug depends on the medication’s ingredients and the stomach’s dynamic environment once it reaches the gastrointestinal tract.

The researchers say that their model of the stomach is the first of its kind to couple gastric biomechanics with pill movement and drug dissolution to determine just how much of the active pharmaceuticals actually pass through the pylorus and reach the duodenum.

StomachSim also enabled the team to calculate and compare the emptying rate and the release of a dissolved pharmaceuticals into the duodenum in a variety of physiological situations.

“Oral administration is surprisingly complex despite being the most common choice for drug administration,” says co-author Rajat Mittal of Johns Hopkins University in a media release. “When the pill reaches the stomach, the motion of the stomach walls and the flow of contents inside determine the rate at which it dissolves. The properties of the pill and the stomach contents also play a major role.

“However,” Mittal notes, “current experimental or clinical procedures for assessing the dissolution of oral drugs are limited in their ability to study this, which makes it a challenge to understand how the dissolution is affected in different stomach disorders, such as gastroparesis, which slows down the emptying of the stomach.”

Mittal adds that the stomach’s contents and gastric fluid dynamics are among the factors that contribute to a drug’s bioavailability. Moreover, stomach contractions can induce pressure and generate complex pill movements in the body.

All of these factors lead to varying rates of pill dissolution and an uneven emptying of the pill into the duodenum. Researchers say these issues create several challenges for the design of oral medications, especially pills which have a delayed reaction.

“In this work, we demonstrate a novel computer simulation platform that offers the potential for overcoming these limitations,” Mittal concludes. “Our models can generate biorelevant data on drug dissolution that can provide useful and unique insights into the complex physiological processes behind the oral administration of pills.”

The findings are published in the journal, Physics of Fluids.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Splashdown: What’s’ the safest way to dive into a swimming pool?

August 3, 2022

Depending on the form and technique, diving into a swimming pool can either be poetry in motion or the aquatic equivalent of a car wreck. Now, scientists at Cornell University have used biomechanics to come up with a formula for safe diving, reports Study Finds.

After measuring the impact of head-first, hand-first, and feet-first diving, study authors put together a model for measuring the impact of different shapes as they plunge into a body of water.

For a novice, untrained diver, researchers say spinal cord and neck injuries are more likely to occur during a head-first dive of more than 26 feet. Meanwhile, collarbone injuries are more likely during a hand-first dive of roughly 40 feet, and knee injuries are likely when diving feet-first from more than 49 feet away from the water.

“Water is 1,000 times denser than air, so you are moving from a very dilute medium to a very dense medium, and you’re going to experience a huge impact,” says senior study author Sunghwan Jung, professor of Biological and Environmental Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in a media release.

“Humans can choose how they dive, so we wanted to look at the effect of the  position of diving. We also wanted to come up with a more universal or general theory of how objects or different shape fronts dive into water, so we looked at the diving fronts of both humans in different postures and animals and measured the forces of impact of the different shapes.”

Study authors used a series of 3D-printed models depicting a near-life-sized human head and torso, torso and head with arms outstretched, and feet while diving. They also used models of a harbor porpoise head, a Northern gannet beak, and a basilisk lizard foot to conduct this research. The models allowed the research team to analyze the impact of curved, pointy, and flat shapes, respectively, on a body of water’s surface.

While throwing each model into water, scientists measured the forces acting on them and how they distributed over time. This approach facilitated the development of a theoretical model capable of describing the increase in force on the various shapes, and how those forces increased with the height of the dive.

Next, researchers plotted the maximum height and force impact human muscles, ligaments, and bones can withstand during a dive—calculating the probability of various injuries (collarbone, spine, and knee) at different heights and in different diving positions.

“In human biomechanics, there is a huge literature on the falling injury, especially in the elderly, and the sports injury, like concussions, but I don’t know of any other work on diving injuries,” Professor Jung explains.

Study authors hope their work helps people make safer diving choices. For example, a feet-first dive is safer from a higher perch.

Additionally, this project highlights how well-adapted certain plunge-diving animals are to withstanding and minimizing the impact of a dive. For instance, northern gannets have shallower beak angles. This unique feature helps them dive into water at up to 79 feet per second. Meanwhile, dolphins have shortened, fused cervical vertebrae, which support their head as they porpoise.

“As engineers, we are very good at making the airplane fly in the air. We are good at making a submarine move in the water, but crossing the interface, as you see in the animal world, is no easy task, and is something engineers are interested in—having a drone go from water to air or air to water, for example,” Professor Jung concludes. “So maybe this study can shed light on the new engineering design in the future that would allow systems to do this. For us, we try to understand the fundamental mechanics.”

The study is published in the journal, Science Advances.

 Research contact: @StudyFinds

Is dyslexia a gift? The disorder seems to have helped some of history’s greatest minds achieve success

June 28, 2022

Dyslexia has affected some of history’s greatest artists and scientists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Steve Jobs—who went on to build billion-dollar companies—also have dealt with developmental dyslexia, a disorder in which children with normal intelligence and sensory abilities show learning deficits for reading.

Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge in Britain have discovered that people with the learning disorder actually have special skills that have enabled our species to survive, reports Study Finds.

The investigators say these individuals are better at solving problems and adapting to challenges, so much so that they could hold the key to tackling climate change. Those with the common learning disability specialize in exploring the unknown, likely to be vital in the coming decades as space exploration takes off.

“The deficit-centered view of dyslexia isn’t telling the whole story,” lead author Dr. Helen Taylor says in a university release. “This research proposes a new framework to help us better understand the cognitive strengths of people with dyslexia.”

Estimates suggest that dyslexia could affect up to one in five people in the United States.

“We believe that the areas of difficulty experienced by people with dyslexia result from a cognitive trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge, with the upside being an explorative bias that could explain enhanced abilities observed in certain realms like discovery, invention and creativity,” Dr. Taylor adds.

The study is the first to look at dyslexia from an evolutionary perspective—providing new insights on its prevalence among the gifted and talented.

“Schools, academic institutes, and workplaces are not designed to make the most of explorative learning. But we urgently need to start nurturing this way of thinking to allow humanity to continue to adapt and solve key challenges,” Taylor says.

study is based on a theory of evolution called “complementary cognition,” which suggests that  humans evolved  to specialize in different but supportive ways of processing information. Combining these abilities enables us to act as more than the sum of our parts —increasing creativity.

At the most fundamental level, it reflects the extent to which individuals are about to exploit the unknown. The phenomenon is rooted in a well-known trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge.

For example, if you eat all the food you have, you risk starvation when it’s all gone. However, if you spend all your time exploring for food, you are wasting energy you don’t need to waste. As in any complex system, humans must ensure that they balance the need to exploit known resources and explore new resources to survive.

“Striking the balance between exploring for new opportunities and exploiting the benefits of a particular choice is key to adaptation and survival and underpins many of the decisions we make in our daily lives,” the researcher continues.

Exploration encompasses activities that involve experimentation, discovery, and innovation. In contrast, exploitation focuses on using what’s already known including refinement, efficiency, and selection.

“Considering this trade-off, an explorative specialization in people with dyslexia could help explain why they have difficulties with tasks related to exploitation, such as reading and writing,” Dr. Taylor concludes.

“It could also explain why people with dyslexia appear to gravitate toward … professions that require exploration-related abilities, such as arts, architecture, engineering, and entrepreneurship.”

The researchers add that collaboration between individuals with different abilities could help explain the exceptional capacity of our species has to adapt.

Study: Walking fast is key to a long life

April 25, 2022

A brisk walk could help add 16 years to your life, a recent study has found. Researchers at the University of Leicester in England have discovered a link between a person’s walking pace and the rate at which he or she ages, reports Study Finds.

Specifically, a lifetime of brisk walking leads to longer telomeres. These are the protective “caps” on the ends of your chromosomes—sort of like the plastic tabs on your shoelaces. Although they don’t carry genetic information, telomeres play a vital role in keeping DNA stable.

Scientists measure these end caps to calculate a person’s biological age. The longer they are, the younger a person is in terms of biological age—which can be much different from chronological age.

In an analysis of over 400,000 British adults conducted by the UK Biobank, scientists found that a faster walking pace throughout life could lead to a person being 16 years younger in terms of biological age by the time he or she reaches midlife. Importantly, the team found brisk walking alone, regardless of how much physical activity that person engages in, leads to longer telomeres.

Researchers explain that each time a cell divides, telomeres become shorter. At a certain point, telomeres get so short that the cell no longer divides. Although the link between telomere length and disease is still unclear, scientists say the buildup of senescent (elderly and dying) cells contributes to the development of age-related diseases and frailty.

Previous studies have shown how walking can provide physical, mental, and social benefits. However, the team says that this is the first time scientists have compared walking speed with genetic data tied to longevity.

“Previous research on associations between walking pace, physical activity and telomere length has been limited by inconsistent findings and a lack of high-quality data,” says lead author Dr. Paddy Dempsey in a university release.

“This research uses genetic data to provide stronger evidence for a causal link between faster walking pace and longer telomere length. Data from wrist-worn wearable activity tracking devices used to measure habitual physical activity also supported a stronger role of habitual activity intensity (e.g. faster walking) in relation to telomere length,” the lecturer and research fellow at the University of Leicester continues.

“This suggests measures such as a habitually slower walking speed are a simple way of identifying people at greater risk of chronic disease or unhealthy aging, and that activity intensity may play an important role in optimizing interventions. For example, in addition to increasing overall walking, those who are able could aim to increase the number of steps completed in a given time (e.g. by walking faster to the bus stop). However, this requires further investigation.”

Leicester researchers have previously found that as little as ten minutes of brisk walking each day can contribute to a longer life. These individuals had a life expectancy up to 20 years longer than their slower walking peers.

The team in this study notes that they did not find a link between walking slower and telomere length growing shorter.

“Whilst we have previously shown that walking pace is a very strong predictor of health status, we have not been able to confirm that adopting a brisk walking pace actually causes better health. In this study we used information contained in each person’s genetic profile to show that a faster walking pace is indeed likely to lead to a younger biological age as measured by telomeres,” concludes Tom Yates, senior author and professor of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior and Health at the University of Leicester.

Research contact: @StudyFinds