New UK research suggests that how fast you walk could be an indication of how likely you are to suffer from heart disease.
Carried out by a team of researchers at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Center in a partnership between Leicester's Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University, the study analyzed data from 420,727 middle-aged subjects across the UK to see if walking pace was associated with risk of heart disease or cancer.
Data was collected between 2006 and 2010, with all participants free of cancer and heart disease at the time of collecting their information.
Participants were asked to self-report their usual walking pace as either slow, steady/average or brisk.
After taking into account factors such as social deprivation, ethnicity, employment, medications, alcohol use, diet, physical activity, and television viewing time, the team found that those who described themselves as slow walkers were around twice as likely to have a heart-related death compared to brisk walkers, and also had a higher risk of death from all causes.
The finding was seen in both men and women and was not related to other risk factors such as smoking, body mass index, diet or how much television the participants watched, suggesting that walking pace is an independent predictor of heart-related death.
The team also found that self-reported walking pace was strongly linked to how fit an individual perceived themselves to be, further suggesting walking pace is a good measure of overall physical fitness.
The team also analyzed a possible relationship between handgrip strength and the two diseases, however they found that it was only a weak predictor of heart-related deaths in men and were unable to generalize the findings across the population as a whole.
Associations between self-reported walking pace and handgrip strength and cancer-related deaths were also not consistent.
The team now believe that self-reported walking pace could be used to identify individuals with low physical fitness and high mortality risk who would benefit from physical exercise interventions.
The findings can be found in the European Heart Journal.