People who habitually have a fast walking pace are more likely to live longer than their slow-walking peers, a study claims. The study, conducted by researchers from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre in the UK, used data from 474,919 people.
It showed that walking pace was linked to life expectancy in all individuals irrespective of weight. Underweight individuals with a slow walking pace had the lowest life expectancy (an average of 64.8 years for men, 72.4 years for women). The same pattern of results was found for waist circumference measurements. This is the first time research has associated fast walking pace with a longer life expectancy regardless of a person's body weight or obesity status.
"Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals," said Professor Tom Yates, a professor at the University of Leicester in the UK."
In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives," said Yates, lead author of the study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Studies published so far have mainly shown the impact of body weight and physical fitness on mortality in terms of relative risk, said Francesco Zaccardi, clinical epidemiologist at the Leicester Diabetes Centre.The study showed that slow walkers were twice as likely to have a heart-related death as fast walkers, even when other risk factors such as smoking and body mass index were taken into account.