Faster walking patients with heart disease are admitted to hospital less often than slower ones, according to Italian researchers.
They found that walking speed maintained during a moderate 1km walk was inversely related to all-cause hospitalisation in patients with hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
“The faster the walking speed, the lower the risk of hospitalisation and the shorter the length of hospital stay”
They also highlighted that walking speed was a marker of “limited mobility, which is a precursor of disability, disease, and loss of autonomy”.
Their three-year study was conducted in 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85% also had coronary heart disease and 15% also had valve disease.
Patients were asked to walk 1km on a treadmill at what they considered to be a moderate intensity. They were classified as slow (2.6km/hour), intermediate (3.9km/hour) and fast (5.1km/hour).
A total of 359 patients were slow walkers, 362 were intermediate and 357 were fast. The study authors then recorded the number of all-cause admissions and length of stay over the next three years.
During the follow-up period, 51% of the slow walkers had at least one hospitalisation, compared to 44% of the intermediate walkers, and 31% of the fast walkers.
“Walking is the most popular type of exercise in adults. It is free, does not require special training”
The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in hospital over the three years, respectively.
In addition, the average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and nine days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively.
Each 1km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalised during the three-year period.
Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37% lower likelihood of hospitalisation in three years, said the researchers.
The study findings were presented today at EuroPrevent 2018, a European Society of Cardiology conference currently being held in Slovenia, and also published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Study author Dr Carlotta Merlo, from the University of Ferrara, said: “The faster the walking speed, the lower the risk of hospitalisation and the shorter the length of hospital stay.
“Since reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, we assume that fast walkers in the study are also fast walkers in real life”
She said: “Since reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which has been linked to decreased physical activity, we assume that fast walkers in the study are also fast walkers in real life.
“Walking is the most popular type of exercise in adults. It is free, does not require special training, and can be done almost anywhere,” noted Dr Merle.
“Even short, but regular, walks have substantial health benefits,” she said. “Our study shows that the benefits are even greater when the pace of walking is increased.”
She added: “We did not exclude any causes of death because walking speed has significant consequences for public health.
“Reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which is a precursor of disability, disease, and loss of autonomy,” she said.