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Ann Epidemiol. 2010 Sep;20(9):661-9. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2010.03.014. Epub 2010 Jun 26.

Walking pace, leisure time physical activity, and resting heart rate in relation to disease-specific mortality in London: 40 years follow-up of the original Whitehall study. An update of our work with professor Jerry N. Morris (1910-2009).

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Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK.



To examine the association of leisure time physical activity, walking pace and resting heart rate with disease-specific mortality in a prospective cohort study by reporting updated analyses of an earlier report we produced with the British epidemiologist, Jerry N. Morris (1910-2009).


In the original Whitehall study, 19,019 male, nonindustrial, London-based government employees, aged from 40 to 69 years in 1967 and 1970, participated in a medical examination during which data on leisure time physical activity (N = 6715), self-rated walking pace (N = 6729), and resting heart rate (N = 1183) were collected. Cox proportional hazards analyses were used to estimate hazard ratios for the relation between these exposures and disease-specific mortality.


In models adjusted for a range of covariates including socioeconomic status, smoking, and obesity, high resting heart rate was associated with a modestly elevated rate of mortality from all causes (hazard ratio; 95% confidence interval: tertile 3 vs. tertile 1: 1.17; 0.99, 1.37 p[trend]: 0.07) and respiratory disease (1.69; 1.04, 2.76 p[trend]: 0.03). Of the two markers of physical activity, walking pace was inversely related to mortality ascribed to all causes (slow vs. high walking pace 1.71; 1.53, 1.91 p[trend]: <0.001]), coronary heart disease (2.03; 1.68, 2.47 p[trend]: <0.001), and total cancers (1.25; 0.98, 1.59 p[trend]: 0.04). The corresponding associations for leisure time activity were typically weaker. For other mortality endpoints-respiratory disease (walking pace: 1.96; 1.48, 2.60 p[trend]: <0.001]), hematopoietic cancer (walking pace: 1.36; 0.52, 3.51 p[trend]: 0.03), stomach cancer (inactive versus active leisure time: 1.53; 0.88, 2.64 p[trend]: 0.04), and rectal cancer (walking pace: 4.85; 1.70, 13.8 p[trend]: 0.007)-individual activity indices revealed effects, but not both.


Higher levels of physical activity indexed by the various markers herein appeared to confer protection against a range of mortality outcomes.

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