WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A person’s walking pace has been linked to their mortality risk from COVID-19.
- A study found that slow walkers, even those with normal weight, are more likely to die from COVID-19 than obese fast walkers.
- Researchers explained that fast walkers have a stronger cardiovascular system.
A recent study from the University of Leicester has found that slow walkers are about twice as likely to have severe COVID-19 symptoms and about four times more likely to die from the disease.
The researchers looked into the body mass, walking pace, and COVID-19 data of 412,596 middle-aged participants of the UK Biobank, a long-term study of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure.
A slow walking pace was defined as three miles per hour, while a fast walking pace was more than four miles per hour.
The researchers found that people who had normal weight but walk slowly were about 2.5 times more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms than people who had normal weight but walk fast. Slow walkers were also 3.75 times more likely to die from the virus.
The reason for this is still unclear, but the research team suggested that fast walkers, regardless of their weight, generally have better cardiovascular and heart health and are therefore more resilient.
Lead researcher Tom Yates, who is also a professor of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and health at the University of Leicester, pointed out that several studies have previously shown that a weak immunity and obesity are risk factors for COVID-19, but have not yet shown “data on measures of physical function or fitness.”
“This is the first study to show that slow walkers have a much higher risk of contracting severe Covid-19 outcomes, irrespective of their weight,” Yates said.
The research showed that slow walkers, whether normal-weight or obese, had a high risk for severe COVID symptoms and mortality. Obese fast walkers were at less risk compared to normal-weight slow walkers.
“With the pandemic continuing to put unprecedented strain on healthcare services and communities, identifying individuals at greatest risk and taking preventative measures to protect them is crucial,” Yates said. “It is my view that ongoing public health and research surveillance studies should consider incorporating simple measures of physical fitness such as self-reported walking pace in addition to BMI, as potential risk predictors of Covid-19,” to allow for “better prevention methods that save lives.”
The researchers noted the study’s limitations, however. Self-reported walking pace has been associated with cardiorespiratory fitness within UK Biobank, but it may be subject to possible reporting bias. The study, therefore, does not provide any definitive causal conclusions.
The results of the study were published in the journal International Journal of Obesity.
Source: Daily Mail