Background: The potential benefit of low-intensity activity in terms of longevity among older men has not been clearly documented. We examined the association between walking and mortality in a cohort of retired men who were nonsmokers and physically capable of participating in low-intensity activities on a daily basis.
Methods: We studied 707 nonsmoking retired men, 61 to 81 years of age, who were enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program. The distance walked (miles per day) was recorded at a base-line examination, which took place between 1980 and 1982. Data on overall mortality (from any cause) were collected over a 12-year period of follow-up.
Results: During the follow-up period, there were 208 deaths. After adjustment for age, the mortality rate among the men who walked less than 1 mile (1.6 km) per day was nearly twice that among those who walked more than 2 miles (3.2 km) per day (40.5 percent vs. 23.8 percent, P=0.001). The cumulative incidence of death after 12 years for the most active walkers was reached in less than 7 years among the men who were least active. The distance walked remained inversely related to mortality after adjustment for overall measures of activity and other risk factors (P=0.01).
Conclusions: Our findings in older physically capable men indicate that regular walking is associated with a lower overall mortality rate. Encouraging elderly people to walk may benefit their health.