Fast walkers are less likely to suffer heart failure than dawdlers, research suggests.
Scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island, tracked the health of 25,000 women over the age of 50, who self-reported their walking speed.
Women who claimed to walk at an ‘average’ pace — between 2-3mph — were 27 per cent less likely to suffer heart failure than ‘casual’ walkers, classed as less than 2mph.
And women with the fastest walking pace — over 3mph — faced a 34 per cent lower risk.
Heart failure — when the organ becomes too weak or stiff to pump blood around the body — cannot usually be cured. But the condition can be managed through lifestyle changes, medication or surgery.
Researchers said fast walkers may be fitter and benefit from better cardiovascular health, lowering the risk.
Or the finding could be down to a muscle-mass reducing condition that has been linked with walking at a slow pace and heart failure.
But lead author Dr Charles Eaton said the finding shows walking pace is a marker of heart health.
Women who walk two to three miles per hour are at a 27 per cent reduced risk of being diagnosed with heart failure than those who walk less than two miles per hour, a study of more than 25,000 women aged over-50 found. Pictured: stock of older people walking
He said: ‘This study confirms other studies demonstrating the importance of walking speed on mortality and other cardiovascular outcomes.
‘Given limited time for exercise is frequently given as a barrier to regular physical activity, walking faster but for less time might provide similar health benefits as the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.’
WHAT IS HEART FAILURE?
Heart failure means the heart is unable to pump blood around the body, usually because it has become too weak or stiff.
The condition, which is most common in older people, affects around 900,000 Britons and 6.2million Americans.
It is a long-term condition that gets worse over time and cannot usually be cured, but can be managed through lifestyle changes and medication.
Its symptoms include breathlessness after physical activity or when resting, feeling tired most of the time and finding exercise exhausting and having swollen ankles or legs.
Heart failure is often the result of multiple problems affecting the heart at the same time, such as coronary heart diseases — when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become clogged — high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy — conditions affecting the heart muscle.
Common treatments include lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, exercising regularly and quitting smoking, medication, a device implanted in your chest to control your heart rhythm and surgery.
The study could help identify those at higher risk of heart failure — by measuring their walking pace — and who may benefit from increasing their fitness and exercise tolerance, the researchers added.
Heart failure, which is most common among the over-50s, affects around 900,000 Britons and 6.2million Americans.
Around four per cent of 60 to 80-year-olds and 11 per cent of the over-80s are suffering from heart failure, according to the researchers.
They examined a database containing the health records of 25,183 women aged 50 to 79 who self-reported their walking pace. Participants were tracked for 17 years, on average.
The team divided them into three groups based on their speed — casual, average and fast walkers.
After factoring in age and other health factors, the researchers found those who walked at an ‘average’ pace were 27 per cent less likely to suffer from heart failure than those who had a casual pace.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also found women who moved at a fast pace were 34 per cent less likely to have heart failure than the casual walkers.
But average-speed walkers — who walked for two hours per week — could reap the same benefits as fast walkers who walked for one hour per week, they said.
The researchers said if a fast pace is ‘physically out of reach’ for some women, achieving an average pace and attending walking classes ‘may be helpful for them’.
Faster walking was also associated with lowered risk of other heart conditions.
Average and fast walkers had around a 27 per cent reduced risk of being diagnosed with a condition that causes the heart to pump less blood than it should, known as reduced ejection fractions.
The mechanism may be because slow walking is linked to reduced muscle mass and an increased risk of heart failure, as well as being a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness, which has been found to reduce the risk of heart failure, the researchers said
But, as the study was observational, the researchers noted other medical or lifestyle factors could be behind the lower heart failure rates.
And it is not clear if encouraging older women to increase their walking pace on its own will reduce the risk as other factors play a vital role.
However, the team said an earlier UK study of 27,000 women, which found fast walkers were 20 per cent less likely to suffer from heart disease than slow walkers, supports their findings.
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