CLEVELAND – Many of us likely don’t pay attention to how fast we walk, but a recent study suggests that our walking speed might be tied to our risk for developing heart disease.
Haitham Ahmed, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said the results are reflective of what experts have known for a long time: how fit we are, and how strong we are, can help predict our overall risk of developing heart disease.
“The study found that people who were brisk walkers had significantly lower cardiac and all-cause death, which makes sense, because those people have higher cardiorespiratory fitness,” said Dr. Ahmed.
Researchers looked at 420,727 people and found that over a six-year period, those with a slower walking pace were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who were brisk walkers.
They also found that those with a weak hand-grip strength were at greater risk for developing heart disease in the future.
Dr. Ahmed said there’s no way of knowing if people walk faster because they’re more fit, or if faster walking leads to better fitness, but previous research has shown that increasing a person’s fitness level ultimately helps their heart health.
He said if people find they are walking slower than they used to, or if they feel like they’re losing strength over time, it’s time to think about increasing their exercise for the benefit of their overall health.
“We tend to lose our muscle mass after age 40, every year, by approximately one percent per year,” said Dr. Ahmed. “If you feel like you aren’t as strong as you used to be, and you know that you haven’t been doing resistance training, it’s definitely something to incorporate into your exercise routine.”
Dr. Ahmed said it’s always a good idea to check in with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.