LEICESTER, England — If you’ve ever been told to “pick up the pace,” you may want to heed the advice. A new study finds that people who walk slowly may be at a higher risk of heart disease or dying from a heart condition than others.
Researchers from the University of Leicester accessed data of more than 420,000 middle-aged people (between 39 and 74) in the United Kingdom (~230,000 women and ~190,000 men) collected between 2006 and 2010. The individuals, who were part of the UK Biobank, which collects health data for researchers on more than a half million volunteers, were all cancer-free and cardiovascular disease when their data was first collected.
The individuals were also surveyed on the speed of their general walk — did they consider themselves walk at a slow pace, a steady/average pace, or a brisk pace?
The team looked at data from the participants about six years after collection, and found 8,598 people had died — 1,654 from heart disease and the 4.850 from cancer. Health outcomes were then compared to how the participants answered the question about their walking.
An immediate observation was made about those who took their time during a stroll.
“Slow walkers were around twice as likely to have a heart-related death compared to brisk walkers,” says Tom Yates, the principal investigator of the study and a professor at the university, in a press release. “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.”
Yates and his team also noticed that participants who walked slowly tended to show a lower overall level of physical fitness.
The researchers were not able to make a connection between walking speed and cancer risk.
The study’s findings were published last week in the European Heart Journal.