Walking at a faster pace may delay death from heart disease

People who speed up their walking pace could live longer, according to a new analysis of mortality records and survey data.

If people, including seniors, speed up their walking pace they could live longer, according to a new analysis of medical data. Photo by pasja1000/Pixabay
If people, including seniors, speed up their walking pace they could live longer, according to a new analysis of medical data. Photo by pasja1000/Pixabay

Researchers at the University of Sydney analyzed 50,225 walkers from 11 population-based surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008. Their findings were published Friday in a special issue on walking and health in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Walking pace is associated with all-cause mortality risk, but its specific role — independent from the total physical activity a person undertakes — has received little attention until now,” lead author Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center and School of Public Health, said in a press release.

An average pace walk was associated with a 20 percent reduction in risk for all deaths compared with walking at a slow pace. At a brisk or fast pace, it was 24 percent lower.

Specifically, in cardiovascular disease mortality, compared with a slow pace, there was a 24 percent reduction in risk at an average pace and 21 percent less at a brisk or fast pace.

They found no associations between pace and cancer mortality.

“A fast pace is generally 5 to 7 kilometers per hour [3.1 to 4.3 mph], but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels,” Stamatakis said. “An alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained.”

The mean follow-up was 9.2 years among the surveys and ranged from at least 10-minute to 30-minute walking sessions.

Average pace walkers age 60 years or older had a 46 percent reduction to risk of death from cardiovascular causes and for fast pace walkers there was a 53 percent reduction.

Participants self-reported their walking pace. Then the research team adjusted for factors such as total amount and intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index.

“While sex and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease,” Stamatakis said.

The researchers found slower walking pace was associated with older age, female sex, higher BMI scores, reporting a long-standing illness and psychological distress.

The researchers are now calling for walking pace to be emphasized in public health messages. They emphasize that in the absence of other exercise options, including walking for longer distances or times, are non-existent, simply speeding up pace can be easily incorporated into people’s lives.

“Assuming our results reflect cause and effect, these analyses suggest that increasing walking pace may be a straightforward way for people to improve heart health and risk for premature mortality — providing a simple message for public health campaigns to promote,” Stamatakis said.

By Allen Cone