Genome-wide association study of self-reported walking pace suggests beneficial effects of brisk walking on health and survival

Commun Biol. 2020 Oct 30;3(1):634. doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-01357-7.


Walking is a simple form of exercise, widely promoted for its health benefits. Self-reported walking pace has been associated with a range of cardiorespiratory and cancer outcomes, and is a strong predictor of mortality. Here we perform a genome-wide association study of self-reported walking pace in 450,967 European ancestry UK Biobank participants. We identify 70 independent associated loci (P < 5 × 10-8), 11 of which are novel. We estimate the SNP-based heritability as 13.2% (s.e. = 0.21%), reducing to 8.9% (s.e. = 0.17%) with adjustment for body mass index. Significant genetic correlations are observed with cardiometabolic, respiratory and psychiatric traits, educational attainment and all-cause mortality. Mendelian randomization analyses suggest a potential causal link of increasing walking pace with a lower cardiometabolic risk profile. Given its low heritability and simple measurement, these findings suggest that self-reported walking pace is a pragmatic target for interventions aiming for general benefits on health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Self Report
  • Walking Speed / genetics*
  • White People

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.12967088.v1
  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.12967091.v1