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Pace of walk affects risk of premature mortality
June 24, 2018, 2:33 pm

It is well known that walking can help to protect our health and prolong our lives. A new study brings added cheer to walkers — and especially to those who favor a brisker pace in their strolls.

Researchers at the Universities in Australia and the UK have found that the faster you walk the more you may be prolonging your lifespan. Walking for as little as two hours per week brings down the risk of all-cause mortality. Walking has also been linked to enhanced cognitive abilities and better psychological well-being.

The scientists explored the links between walking speed and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes. The team analyzed 11 population-based surveys conducted in the UK in the 1994–2008 period, gathering data on 50,225 walkers.

From the surveys, the study-team collected information on the participants' self-reported walking pace, which was characterized as ‘slow’, ‘average’, or ‘brisk’, with a brisk pace denoting a speed of 5 to 7 kilometer per hour and which usually left the walker slightly out of breath or sweaty.

To understand how walking speed relates to the risk of mortality, these data were linked to mortality records. The scientists adjusted their analysis to consider possible influencing factors, such as age, gender, body mass index (BMI), and general physical activity habits.

The study revealed that, while an ‘average’ walking pace was linked with a 20 percent lower risk of mortality from all causes, walking at a ‘fast’ pace was tied to a 24 percent lower risk. While gender and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was also associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also noticed that older individuals seemed to reap more benefits from walking at a brisker pace. Participants aged 60 or over had a 46 percent lower risk of death related to cardiovascular diseases if they walked at an average pace, and a 53 percent lower risk if they walked fast.

These findings should be ground enough for public health messages to mention the importance not just of walking, but also of walking pace, especially in situations when walking more often is not possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment.

Though establishing cause and effect relationships between walking pace and lower risk of death may prove complicated, the investigators maintain that increasing walking pace may be a way to improve heart health and risk for premature mortality.


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