OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials that examined the effect of walking on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
METHODS: Four electronic databases and reference lists were searched (Jan 1971-June 2012). Two authors identified randomised control trials of interventions =4weeks in duration that included at least one group with walking as the only treatment and a no-exercise comparator group. Participants were inactive at baseline. Pooled results were reported as weighted mean treatment effects and 95% confidence intervals using a random effects model.
RESULTS: 32 articles reported the effects of walking interventions on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Walking increased aerobic capacity (3.04mL/kg/min, 95% CI 2.48 to 3.60) and reduced systolic (-3.58mmHg, 95% CI -5.19 to -1.97) and diastolic (-1.54mmHg, 95% CI -2.83 to -0.26) blood pressure, waist circumference (-1.51cm, 95% CI -2.34 to -0.68), weight (-1.37kg, 95% CI -1.75 to -1.00), percentage body fat (-1.22%, 95% CI -1.70 to -0.73) and body mass index (-0.53kg/m2, 95% CI -0.72 to -0.35) but failed to alter blood lipids.
CONCLUSIONS: Walking interventions improve many risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This underscores the central role of walking in physical activity for health promotion.