The speed in which you walk may be a determinant of your heart health, a new large-scale study found.
According to researchers at the University of Leicester, healthy slow-walking middle-aged adults are two times more likely to die from heart disease than brisk walkers.
“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,” principal author of the study Tom Yates said in a statement.
The study analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank of 420,727 middle-aged people across the U.K. between 2006 and 2010. People were selected for the study if they were cancer-free and heart disease-free at the time of collecting their information.
After following up 6.3 years later, researchers found that there were 8,598 deaths. Of those, 1,654 were from heart disease and 4,850 were from cancer.
From their findings, researchers were able to conclude that the pace at which someone walked was linked to their likelihood of heart disease.
“Slow walkers were around twice as likely to have a heart-related death compared to brisk walkers,” Yates said. “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 found that self-reported walking pace was “strongly linked to an individual’s objectively measured exercise tolerance,” which further suggests that walking pace is a good measure of overall physical fitness.
“Therefore, 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,” Yates adds.
The study was published this week in the European Heart Journal.
This isn’t the first study to look at walking pace and how it affects our health.
According to a 2015 Tufts University study, researchers determined that walking faster or longer was linked to “significant” cardiovascular benefits in older adults.
Another 2015 study by Ohio State University found that walking at various speeds can burn up to 20 per cent more calories compared to walking a steady pace.
The American Academy of Neurology also concluded in 2012 study that the speed at which one walks later in life may signal the early stages of dementia, also known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
In fact, people who were slow walkers were nine times more likely have non-memory related MCI than fast walkers.