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

Br J Sports Med. 2018 Jun;52(12):761-768. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098677.


Background/objectives: Walking pace is associated with risk of premature mortality. However, whether this relationship is independent of total volume of physical activity and highest physical activity intensity remains unclear. We examined the associations between walking pace and cause-specific mortality, investigating the potential modifying effect of factors such as total physical activity volume, highest physical activity intensity, age, sex and body mass index (BMI).

Methods: Prospective pooled analysis of 11 population-based baseline surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and2008 that were linked with mortality records. Multivariate-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models examined associations between walking pace (slow, average, brisk/fast) and all-cause, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality.

Results: 50 225 walkers were entered in the core analyses. Among participants who did not experience an event in the first 2 years of follow-up (n=49 731), walking at an average or brisk/fast pace was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause (20% (95% CI 12% to 28%) and 24% (95% CI 13% to 33%), respectively) and CVD mortality (24% (95% CI 9% to 36%) and 21% (95% CI 1% to 38%), respectively), compared with reporting walking at a slow pace. In stratified analyses, such associations were evident among those over 50 years, those not meeting the physical activity recommendations and those who did not undertake vigorous-intensity activity. There were no interactions by sex or BMI. No associations were seen between pace and cancer mortality.

Conclusion: Walking benefits health. Assuming causality, these analyses suggest that increasing walking pace could reduce risk for all-cause and CVD mortality. Walking pace could be emphasised in public health messages, especially in situations when increase in walking volume or frequency is less feasible.

Keywords: cohort study; epidemiology; physical activity; public health; walking.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Walking Speed*