Investigation of a UK biobank cohort reveals causal associations of self-reported walking pace with telomere length
Abstract: Walking pace is a simple and functional form of movement and a strong predictor of health status, but the nature of its association with leucocyte telomere length (LTL) is unclear. Here we investigate whether walking pace is associated with LTL, which is causally associated with several chronic diseases and has been proposed as a marker of biological age. Analyses were conducted in 405,981 UK Biobank participants. We show that steady/average and brisk walkers had significantly longer LTL compared with slow walkers, with accelerometer-assessed measures of physical activity further supporting this through an association between LTL and habitual activity intensity, but not with total amount of activity. Bi-directional mendelian randomisation analyses suggest a causal link between walking pace and LTL, but not the other way around. A faster walking pace may be causally associated with longer LTL, which could help explain some of the beneficial effects of brisk walking on health status. Given its simple measurement and low heritability, self-reported walking pace may be a pragmatic target for interventions.