Genome-wide association study of self-reported walking pace suggests beneficial effects of brisk walking on health and survival
journal contributionposted on 23.11.2020, 10:13 by Iain R Timmins, Francesco Zaccardi, Christopher P Nelson, Paul Franks, Thomas Yates, Frank Dudbridge
Walking is a simple form of exercise, widely promoted for its health benefits. Self-reported walking pace has been associated with a range of cardiorespiratory and cancer outcomes, and is a strong predictor of mortality. Here we perform a genome-wide association study of self-reported walking pace in 450,967 European ancestry UK Biobank participants. We identify 70 independent associated loci (P < 5 × 10−8), 11 of which are novel. We estimate the SNP-based heritability as 13.2% (s.e. = 0.21%), reducing to 8.9% (s.e. = 0.17%) with adjustment for body mass index. Significant genetic correlations are observed with cardiometabolic, respiratory and psychiatric traits, educational attainment and all-cause mortality. Mendelian randomization analyses suggest a potential causal link of increasing walking pace with a lower cardiometabolic risk profile. Given its low heritability and simple measurement, these findings suggest that self-reported walking pace is a pragmatic target for interventions aiming for general benefits on health.