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But what if by walking faster you improve the common factor? What if it's just that gait speed is a symptom of poor heath, but by attempting to walk faster (maybe even by going for more walks) you actually improve your health?

The questions you ask are interesting, but not answered in any way by the linked study.

Unlikely. Or the effect might be minimal.

It's pretty common-sense that healthy people will already have a faster gait. I mean for lots of people who are about to die, their gait speed is probably zero because you can't even walk. Your average person doesn't even spend much time exercising, and this study is about average folks, so it's saying that average folks with a faster gait live longer. Most of them don't even exercise.

Exercise doesn't have to be intentional. I think this is probably partly causal: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5914630

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