Ben­e­fits of brisk walk­ing

Sunday Tribune - - WELLNESS -

of early death from any cause and a 21% lower risk of death from car­dio­vas­cu­lar causes.

We also found the ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects of fast walk­ing were more pro­nounced in older age groups. For ex­am­ple, av­er­age pace walk­ers aged 60 years or over ex­pe­ri­enced a 46% re­duc­tion in risk of death from car­dio­vas­cu­lar causes, and fast walk­ers ex­pe­ri­enced a 53% re­duc­tion. Com­pared to slow walk­ers, brisk or fast walk­ers aged 45-59 had 36% lower risk of early death from any cause.

What it all means

Our re­sults sug­gest walk­ing at an av­er­age, brisk or fast pace may be ben­e­fi­cial for long-term health and longevity com­pared to slow walk­ing, par­tic­u­larly for older peo­ple.

But we also need to be mind­ful that our study was ob­ser­va­tional, and we did not have full con­trol of all likely in­flu­ences to be able to es­tab­lish if it was the walk­ing alone caus­ing the ben­e­fi­cial health ef­fects. For ex­am­ple, it could be that the least healthy peo­ple re­ported slow walk­ing pace as a re­sult of their poor health, and also ended up dy­ing ear­lier for the same rea­son.

To min­imise the chances of this re­verse causal­ity, we ex­cluded all those who had heart dis­ease, had ex­pe­ri­enced a stroke or had can­cer when the study started, as well as those who died in the first two years of fol­low up.

An­other im­por­tant point is that par­tic­i­pants in our study self-re­ported their usual pace, which means the re­sponses were about per­ceived pace.

What is per­ceived as “fast” walk­ing pace by a very seden­tary and phys­i­cally un­fit 70-year-old will be very dif­fer­ent from a sporty and fit 45-year-old.

For this rea­son, our re­sults could be in­ter­preted as re­flect­ing rel­a­tive (to one’s phys­i­cal ca­pac­ity) in­ten­sity of walk­ing. That is, the higher the phys­i­cal ex­er­tion while walk­ing, the bet­ter health re­sults.

For the gen­eral rel­a­tively healthy mid­dle-aged pop­u­la­tion, a walk­ing speed be­tween 6 and 7.5km/h will be fast and if sus­tained, will make most peo­ple slightly out of breath.

A walk­ing pace of 100 steps per minute is con­sid­ered roughly equiv­a­lent to mod­er­ate in­ten­sity phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. We know walk­ing is a healthy ac­tiv­ity, ac­ces­si­ble by most peo­ple of all ages.

Our find­ings sug­gest it’s a good idea to step up to a pace that will chal­lenge our phys­i­ol­ogy and may even make walk­ing more of a work­out. – The Con­ver­sa­tion

Em­manuel Sta­matakis, Pro­fes­sor of Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity, Life­style, and Pop­u­la­tion Health, Univer­sity of Syd­ney

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