A faster walking pace may be linked to a longer life, according to a new international study led by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia. The protective effects of a faster walking pace were found to be more pronounced in older age groups.
The findings, published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, show that an average walking pace is tied to a 20 percent risk reduction for all-cause mortality compared to a slow walking pace. But even better, walking at a brisk or fast pace (around 3.1 to 4.3 miles per hour) is associated with a risk reduction of 24 percent.
Risk for cardiovascular disease mortality is reduced by 24 percent for individuals who walk at an average pace and 21 percent for those who walk at a brisk or fast pace, compared to those who walk slowly.
Among those 60 years and older, an average walking pace is associated with a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Among fast walkers, this jumps to a 53 percent reduction.
“A fast pace is generally five to seven kilometres per hour, but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels; an alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained,” said lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.
The study was a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health, the University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Limerick and the University of Ulster. The researchers sought to determine the associations between walking pace with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.
After comparing death records with the results of 11 population-based surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008 — in which participants self-reported their walking pace — the researchers adjusted for factors such as total amount and intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index.
“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,” said Stamatakis.
“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. There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality, however.”
In light of the findings, the researchers are calling for walking pace to be emphasized in public health messages.
“Separating the effect of one specific aspect of physical activity and understanding its potentially causal association with risk of premature death is complex,” said Stamatakis.
“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.
“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up — one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives.”
Source: University of Sydney