A team of researchers at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre in the United Kingdom — a collaboration between Leicester’s Hospitals, the University of Leicester, and Loughborough University — has concluded that middle-aged people who report being slow walkers may be at higher risk of heart disease than the general population.
The data examined was collected from nearly half a million middle-aged adults throughout the UK by the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010. Because they were clear of cancer and heart disease at the time of data collection, 420,727 individuals were included in the study.
The findings have been published in the European Heart Journal.
There were 8598 fatalities in the sample population over the next 6.3 years after the data was collected: 1654 from cardiovascular disease and 4850 from cancer.
“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,” said Professor Tom Yates, a Reader in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Health at the University of Leicester and the study’s Principal Investigator.
“Slow walkers were about twice as likely as brisk walkers to die from a heart-related cause. This conclusion was observed in both men and women and was not explained by risk variables such as smoking, BMI, nutrition, or how much television the sample members watched. This implies that habitual walking speed is a separate predictor of heart-related mortality.
“We also discovered that self-reported walking pace is significantly related to an individual’s objectively assessed exercise tolerance, indicating that walking pace is a solid indicator of overall physical fitness.” As a result, self-reported walking pace may be utilized to distinguish persons with low physical fitness and good mental health.
The researchers also looked at real handgrip strength as assessed by a dynamometer to determine if it was a good predictor of cancer or heart disease mortality. Handgrip strength found to be just a poor predictor of heart-related fatalities in males and could not be extended to the whole population.
There was no consistent relationship between self-reported walking pace and handgrip strength and cancer-related mortality.
The study, titled ‘Association of walking speed and handgrip strength with all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: a UK Biobank observational study,’ was published in the European Heart Journal on August 21, 2017.