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The Easiest Way to Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack
Walking is one of the most basic forms of human exercise. And if you walk in green areas it can actually lower your blood pressure and your stress hormones.
Plus, walking is good for your brain.
All of this might be because of pressure waves from the feet that increase blood flow and oxygen.
Scientists now know that you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and death with brisk walking.
And that risk reduction gets better with age.
These scientists did their research at the University of Sydney and published their results in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
They used information from 11 research projects (1994 and 2008) in the United Kingdom involving 50,000 people.
“Analysis of 11 population-based baseline surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008 that were linked with mortality records.”
The researchers looked at and compared surveys about lifestyle habits and hospital records.
The lifestyle surveys included detailed information on exercise – including walking.
This study categorized people into three categories depending on how fast they walked.
“We examined risk associations between walking pace (slow, average, brisk/fast) and mortality.”
They found an association between walking quickly and reduced risk of death from any cause – and from cardiovascular disease specifically.
“Walking at an average or brisk/fast pace was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause 20% to 24%.”
Average and brisk walkers had a 20% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
“Brisk/fast pace was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality 24% and 21%, respectively.”
People over 50 had even better health outcomes from brisk walking. The researchers found a 32% lower risk of death for people over 50.
“We recorded clearer evidence of a relationship between walking pace and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in the over-50s.”
The risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 30% lower in brisk walkers of the same age group.
They found further benefits for those over 60.
There was a 53% risk reduction of death from cardiovascular disease in brisk walkers over the age of 60.
Over-60s who walked at an average pace had a 46% reduction in cardiovascular death.
“Walking at an average or brisk pace was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality compared with walking at a slow pace.”
The study found almost no protection against cancer associated with any walking pace, though.
“However, there was no evidence of a similar relationship with cancer mortality.”
Most of the protection from brisk walking is due to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The study supports findings from previous smaller studies.
“Our findings are in agreement with previous studies which have reported that a higher pace of walking was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality between 19% and 42%.”
For young people or people who are already physically active, there wasn’t a huge degree of extra benefit.
This suggests that walking at a brisk pace may provide just enough vigorous exercise to keep people healthy.
“We did not find evidence for associations for the younger participants, the physically active, or for those reaching vigorous intensity.”
These researchers recommend the promotion of walking a brisk pace as a public health strategy.
“Walking pace could be emphasized in public health messages.”
Brisk walking benefited both men and women, and there was no association with body weight.
“There were no interactions by sex or BMI.”
Brisk walking is generally about 5 km an hour. But this also depends on the person’s health and other factors.
You should always consult a healthcare professional about treating and diagnosing health problems.
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- Self-rated walking pace and all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 50 225 walkers from 11 population British cohorts
- Brisk walking, fitness, and cardiovascular risk: a randomized controlled trial in primary care.
- Walking: Your steps to health - Harvard Health