International Health News

Walkers live longer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA. The debate over how much exercise and physical activity is necessary in order to derive significant health benefits continues to rage. Now researchers from nine American universities and health institutions report that men can increase their lifespan by going for long walks. Their study, a part of the Honolulu Heart Program initiated in 1965, involved 707 non-smoking, retired men between the ages of 61 and 81 years (between the ages of 45 and 68 years at the time of enrollment). Between 1980 and 1982 the men were assessed as to the amount of walking they did on a daily basis. Other factors such as age, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, alcohol intake, and nutritional risk factors were also recorded. A follow-up 10 years later showed that most of the men retained their daily walking patterns as they aged. The men were followed for 12 years by which time 208 of them had died; 33 from heart disease, 19 from stroke, 68 from cancer, and 88 from other causes. After adjustment for other risk factors the researchers concluded that men who walked less than one mile (1.6 km) per day had an 80 per cent higher risk of dying prematurely than did men who walked more than two miles per day and a 50 per cent higher risk than men who walked between one and two miles per day. The difference in mortality from cancer was particularly striking. The adjusted risk for dying of cancer was 2.4 times higher for men who walked the least as compared to men who walked the most. Overall, 43 per cent of the men who walked less than one mile per day died during the 12-year follow-up period as compared to only 22 per cent in the group who walked more than two miles per day. The researchers conclude that regular walking increases longevity and that the risk of death can be reduced by 19 per cent for every one mile increase in daily walking distance.
Hakim, Amy A., et al. Effects of walking on mortality among nonsmoking retired men. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 338, January 8, 1998, pp. 94- 99

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