Study shows slow walking pace is good predictor of heart-related deaths

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Research suggests that middle-aged people who report that they are slow walkers could be at higher risk of heart disease compared to the general population.

A team of researchers at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre – a partnership between Leicester’s Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University and part of the NCSEM-EM – has concluded that middle-aged people who report that they are slow walkers could be at higher risk of heart disease compared to the general population.

The data analysed was collected between 2006 and 2010 by the UK Biobank from nearly half a million middle-aged people across the UK.In total 420,727 people were included in the research because they were free from cancer and heart disease at the time of collecting their information.

In the following 6.3 years after the data was collected there were 8,598 deaths with the sample population being studied: 1,654 from cardiovascular disease and 4,850 from cancer.

Professor Tom Yates, a Reader in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Health at Leicester University and Principal Investigator for the study, said: “Our study was interested in the links between whether someone said they walked at a slow, steady or brisk pace and whether that could predict their risk of dying from heart disease or cancer in the future.

“Slow walkers were around twice as likely to have a heart-related death compared to brisk walkers. This finding was seen in both men and women and was not explained by related risk factors such as smoking, body mass index, diet or how much television the participants in the sample watched. This suggests habitual walking pace is an independent predictor of heart-related death.

“We also found that self-reported walking pace was strongly linked to an individual’s objectively measured exercise tolerance, further suggesting walking pace is a good measure of overall physical fitness. Therefore, self-reported walking pace could be used to identify individuals who have low physical fitness and high mortality risk that would benefit from targeted physical exercise interventions.”

The paper, ‘Association of walking pace and handgrip strength with all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: a UK Biobank observational study’ was published in the European Heart Journal.

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