Middle-aged people who report that they are slow walkers could be at higher risk of heart disease compared to the general population, according to UK researchers.
They suggested that walking pace could be a “simple” indicator of a patient’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and ultimately dying from it.
“Slow walkers were around twice as likely to have a heart-related death”
The researchers analysed data on 420,727 people who were free from cancer and heart disease at the time of the collecting their information during 2006-10.
In the following 6.3 years after the data was collected, there were 8,598 deaths within the sample population, of which 1,654 were from cardiovascular disease and 4,850 from cancer.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that slower walkers – both men and women – were around twice as likely to die from cardiovascular causes than faster walkers.
“A simple self-reported measure of slow walking pace could aid risk stratification for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality within the general population,” concluded the researchers.
“Self-reported walking pace could be used to identify individuals who have low physical fitness and high mortality risk”
Lead study author Professor Tom Yates, from the University of Leicester, said: “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.
“Slow walkers were around twice as likely to have a heart-related death compared to brisk walkers,” he said, adding that it was not affected by related risk factors such as smoking or body mass index.
“This suggests habitual walking pace is an independent predictor of heart-related death,” said Professor Yates.
He added: “Self-reported walking pace could be used to identify individuals who have low physical fitness and high mortality risk that would benefit from targeted physical exercise interventions.”
Slow walking pace is ‘good predictor’ of heart-related deaths
The research team also analysed actual handgrip strength as measured by a dynamometer to see if it was a good predictor of cancer or heart-related deaths.
Handgrip strength appeared to be only a weak predictor of heart-related deaths in men and could not be generalised across the population as a whole, they concluded.
They added that associations between self-reported walking pace and handgrip strength and cancer-related deaths were not consistent.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers at the Leicester Biomedical Research Centre – a partnership between University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University.