Walking at average or brisk/fast pace is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, an analysis of data from 50,225 walkers has found.
“A fast pace is generally 3-4 mph (5-6 km 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 study lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney.
Professor Stamatakis and co-authors sought to determine the associations between walking pace with all-cause, CVD and cancer mortality.
Linking mortality 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 then adjusted for factors such as total amount and intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index.
Walking at an average pace was found to be associated with a 20% risk reduction for all-cause mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%.
A similar result was found for risk of CVD mortality, with a reduction of 24% walking at an average pace and 21% walking at a brisk or fast pace, compared to walking at a slow pace.
The protective effects of walking pace were also found to be more pronounced in older age groups.
Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% reduction.
“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 CVD,” Professor Stamatakis said.
“There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality however.”
In light of the findings, the scientists 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,” Professor Stamatakis said.
“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.”
The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Emmanuel Stamatakis et al. 2018. Self-rated walking pace and all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 50,225 walkers from 11 population British cohorts. British Journal of Sports Medicine 52 (12); doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098677