Walk Time Provides Useful Health Indicator Information for Postmenopausal Women

July 18, 2011

The 400-meter timed walk can provide insights into an older person’s cardiorespiratory fitness; the resulting data from these walks are useful in predicting total mortality, cardiovascular disease, mobility limitation, and disability. But do leisure time activities and weight/body composition changes affect walk time? Dr Kelley K. Pettee Gabriel from the division of epidemiology, human genetics, and environmental sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Austin, and colleagues believe a better understanding of this relationship will help clarify the best use of the 400-meter walk in middle-aged women.

The 400-meter timed walk can provide insights into an older person’s cardiorespiratory fitness; the resulting data from these walks are useful in predicting total mortality, cardiovascular disease, mobility limitation, and disability. But do leisure time activities and weight/body composition changes affect walk time? Dr Kelley K. Pettee Gabriel from the division of epidemiology, human genetics, and environmental sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Austin, and colleagues believe a better understanding of this relationship will help clarify the best use of the 400-meter walk in middle-aged women.  

The researchers used data from Women On the Move through Activity and Nutrition (WOMAN) study, which was a 5-year, randomized clinical trial that examined the effects of nonpharmacologic weight loss interventions on subclinical atherosclerosis among postmenopausal women aged 52 to 62 years. The intervention group enrolled in a lifestyle changes program facilitated by a multidisciplinary team of nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and behavioral psychologists, while the control group received a series of health education classes. The participants had a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 39.9 kg/m2 and a waist circumference of at least 80 cm. Data from the 400-meter walk (including heart rate) were collected; the Modifiable Activity Questionnaire, an interview-based assessment, was used to ascertain leisure and occupational activities. Height and weight were used to determine participants’ BMI and body composition. Demographic variables were also collected.

At baseline, no significant differences were found for the study parameters between the lifestyle group and the control group. However, at the 48-month assessment point, participants in the lifestyle modification group were found to have shorter walk times and lower body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and trunk fat mass than their counterparts in the control group. In fact, the lifestyle change group saw significant decreases in walk time, while the control group did not achieve significant decrease in walk time. In the lifestyle change group, the researchers also noted that increased leisure time physical activities and decreased body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and whole body, trunk, and lower extremity fat mass were significantly associated with reductions in 400-meter walk time. While similar results were found among participants in the control group, the researchers did not find a statistically significant relationship between walk time and leisure time physical activity. The researchers were unable to determine if the 400-meter walk was more sensitive to weight loss or increases in leisure time physical activity.

Gabriel and colleagues explained the clinical implications of their results: “The information gleaned from the 400-meter walk could potentially be used by clinicians and researchers to provide a less invasive and valid estimate of cardiorespiratory fitness.” They added, “Because the only requirements for performing the test are adequate space to set up the course and a trained staff person to administer it, the 400-meter walk could be particularly useful in medically underserved settings to supplement traditional health risk factor assessment and triage individuals for additional screening or intensive lifestyle intervention for chronic disease management.”

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Reference
Gabriel KK, Conroy MB, Schmid KK, et al. The impact of weight and fat mass loss and increased physical activity on physical function in overweight, postmenopausal women: results from the Women on the Move Through Activity and Nutrition study. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21705864] Menopause. 2011;18(7):759-765.