Here’s a weird new phrase to add to your lexicon: optimal walking speed. Yep, it exists, and it’s mostly different for everyone. Basically, your body wants to spend the least amount of energy while still going fast, and it takes into account limb length and mass to do so. In general, men move a bit quicker than women.
So, what happens when we’re with someone and have to vary our speed? Well, a study published in PLOS One found out. Researchers tracked how twenty-two people (eleven men, eleven women) walked under four different conditions: alone, with a romantic partner, with someone of the same sex, and with someone of the opposite sex. They found that men slowed down by seven per cent when they were with a female romantic partner, but when men and women who weren’t romantically linked walked together, both people adjusted speeds for equilibrium.
Interestingly, when men walked together, they tended to speed up. Women did the opposite: when two women walked together, they tended to slow down.
So, what effect does that have on your day-to-day? Probably absolutely nothing, but it does explain some things. Also, we’re happy to have some scientific proof of slow-walking women, which we thought was just us and smart-ass cartoon writers.