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One Major Danger of Being a Slow Walker, Says New Study

A new analysis of 233,000 people links slow walking and a greater risk of death among cancer survivors.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
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A new study just published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention contains some alarming information for cancer survivors who may take their daily constitutional at a deliberate pace or do not walk at all. Having analyzed detailed questionnaires of more than 233,000 study participants between the ages of 50 and 71, research teams from several top universities and the National Cancer Institute concluded that "those who walked at the slowest pace had more than twofold increased risk of death from any cause, compared with those reporting the fastest walking pace."

It's the latest study to shed light on what appears to be a profound link between walking pace—or "gait speed"—and early death within the context of cancer. In 2019, a study published in the journal Blood found that for every 1/10th of a meter slower that a patient of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma walked over a distance of four meters, their risk of death went up by a staggering 22 percent.

Though the new study says explicitly that slow walking isn't the cause of death among the cancer survivors, it does state quite clearly that the "association persisted across at least nine tumor types," which include breast, colon, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate, oral, melanoma, rectal, respiratory, and urinary cancers. The authors note that the findings should have an impact on cancer rehabilition. "It's important to improve our understanding of how the diagnosis and treatment of a broad range of cancers may affect walking pace during survivorship—a potentially modifiable risk factor—which could lead to new treatment and rehabilitation strategies to improve the health of these patients," explained Elizabeth A. Salerno, Ph.D., a professor of surgery at Washington University.

What's more, the researchers (who hailed from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of North Carolina, and George Washington University) found that cancer survivors with a disability—and therefore could not walk—had an even stronger chance of early death.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers studied the questionnaires of participants who had enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) Diet and Health Study, "who answered [questions] about their overall health and walking pace." The study participants "were followed" for several years. Ultimately, the study concludes that "compared with individuals without a cancer diagnosis who walked at the fastest pace, cancer survivors who walked the slowest had more than tenfold increased risk of death from any cause."

It's just the latest study to shed light on the importance of walking every day for your health, your brain, and ultimately your lifespan. For a few more reasons to walk every day—and at a rigorous pace—read on, because we've listed them right here. And to learn more things that affect your lifespan, make sure you know the The Personality Trait That Skyrockets Your Risk of Early Death.

1

You'll be more creative

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A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports says that if you're looking to boost your own creativity, you should walk more—or perform some other sort of moderate exercise on a daily basis. The more active you are, the study says, the more you can expect your creative juices to flow.

An earlier study, published by APA PsycNet in 2014, found that exercising more is linked to creating more successful innovations, while another study, published in the journal Science in 2006, found that the mental state you inhabit while doing activities such as walking was linked with creative ideas.

2

You'll have better blood sugar levels

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A study published in the journal Diabetologia in 2016 found that just a 10-minute walk after eating helped people with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels. And for more healthy living news you can use right now, make sure you're aware of the One Major Side Effect of Sitting on the Couch Too Much, Says New Study

3

You'll be less stressed out

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"Having a regular walking schedule can be great for your health, and I am not just talking about physical, but also your mental health," Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific, previously told Eat This, Not That. "[You have a] feeling of accomplishment by burning calories, [you] can lower your daily stress, and you let the body secrete natural endorphins which is the 'feel-good' hormone."

4

You'll lose weight

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According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry, researchers who studied the effects of walking on obese women over the course of a 12-week period found that it was especially effective at targeting and reducing visceral fat—otherwise known as belly fat, the type that increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease—while also helping improve the body's insulin response. And for more healthy living news, read up on The Single Most Effective Way to Work Out Every Day, Say Psychologists

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more
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