You probably know that walking 10,000 steps a day leads to better health, even though plenty of us walk less than half that number. Before you slip on your sneakers vowing to add more steps to your daily routine, you might want to consider this: It’s not only how far you walk — but how fast you do it.

The studies, the largest to objectively track step count in connection with health, are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers analyzed the walking habits of around 78,500 adults in the United Kingdom and confirmed that meeting the goal of 10,000 steps a day pays off big time. It lowers the risk of dementia, heart disease, cancer and early death. Plus, if you add speed to your walk, you’ll improve your health even more.

If you look up and straight ahead, it sets your gaze on the horizon which automatically helps you move ahead faster.

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia and the University of Southern Denmark looked at data from UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource that contains in-depth genetic and health information of millions of UK participants. For these studies, the team focused on people between the ages of 40 to 79 years of age and analyzed their health outcome over a seven-year period. In addition, the participants wore a wrist accelerometer to measure their physical activity over a period of seven days (minimum three days, including a weekend day and monitoring during sleep periods).

Information was then linked with their health records using several data registries and records including inpatient hospital, primary care records and cancer and death registries. Here’s what the researchers found out:

  • Every 2,000 steps lowered the risk of premature death incrementally by 8 to 11 percent, up to approximately 10,000 steps. Similar associations were noted for cardiovascular disease and the incidence of cancer.
  • A higher number of steps per day was associated with a lower risk of all-case dementia.
  • The optimal dose of 9800 steps a day was linked to a 50 percent lower risk of dementia; but as little as 3,800 steps a day reduced the risk by 25 percent.
  • Stepping intensity or a faster pace showed beneficial associations for all outcomes including dementia, heart disease, cancer and death over and above the number of daily steps.

“The take-home message here is that for protective health benefits, people could not only ideally aim for 10,000 steps a day but also aim to walk faster,” one of the study’s lead authors, Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney, said in a press release,

If you’re considering increasing your speed, here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Take short, quick strides. Even though you’d think taking long strides will help you move faster, they actually slow you down because your foot will land in an outstretched position, similar to a brake.
  • Push off on the toes of your backstep. This will give your next step a boost.
  • Maintain good posture. This sets your gaze on the horizon which automatically helps you move ahead faster.
  • Use your arms to help propel you. Keep them relaxed and bent and allow them to swing from front to back.