24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825
Fax: (361)578-5500

Wellness and Personal Development
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Education Benefits the Brain Over a LifetimeAnother COVID Hazard: False InformationSocial Distancing? Your Paycheck Plays a RoleIs Your Home Workstation Hurting You?Many Stay Optimistic Until Old Age HitsMany Americans Pause Social Media as National Tensions RiseAfter Lockdown, Ease Back Into ExerciseFor a Longer Life, Any Exercise Is Good Exercise: StudyUnder 50 and Overweight? Your Odds for Dementia Later May RiseMore Americans Turning to Artificial Sweeteners, But Is That a Healthy Move?Don't Forget Good Sleep Habits During SummerExpert Tips to Help You Beat the HeatCould Vegetables Be the Fountain of Youth?AHA News: Enjoy a Nap, But Know the Pros and ConsCoffee: Good for You or Not?Keep Flossing: Study Ties Gum Disease to Higher Cancer RiskKnow Your Burn Risks This SummerYour Guide to Safer Dining During the PandemicGetting Your Protein From Plants a Recipe for LongevityHow to Protect Yourself From the Sun's Harmful UV RaysAHA News: Why Stay in Touch While Keeping Distant? It's Only HumanWorking Off Your Quarantine Weight GainAs REM Sleep Declines, Life Span SuffersFollow Exercise Guidelines and You'll Live Longer, Study SaysBiases Mean Men Dubbed 'Brilliant' More Often Than WomenFireworks Are Bad News for Your LungsPandemic Means More Backyard Fireworks This Year -- And More DangerA Safer 4th Is One Without Backyard FireworksSleeping In on Weekends Won't Erase Your 'Sleep Debt'As Pandemic Leads to Clearer Skies, Solar Energy Output RisesWhen Can Sports Fans Safely Fill Stadiums Again?AHA News: How to Stay Safe, Healthy and Cool This Summer Despite COVID-19 ThreatWhat Behaviors Will Shorten Your Life?Heat Kills More Americans Than Previously ThoughtYes, Bad Sleep Does Make People GrumpyDespite Predictions, Loneliness Not Rising for Americans Under LockdownDon't Be a 'Hot-Head': Study Suggests Head Overheating Impairs ThinkingWhy Exercise? Researchers Say It Prevents 3.9 Million Deaths a YearWorking From Home? Posture, Ergonomics Can Make It SafeWant to Travel During the Pandemic? Here's What to ConsiderHealthier Meals Could Mean Fewer Strokes, Heart AttacksWhat Difference Do Calorie Counts on Menus Make?Want Added Years? Try VolunteeringEating Before Bedtime Might Pack on the PoundsWhy Are Some People More Sensitive Than Others? Genes May TellWalking or Biking to Work Might Save Your LifeAmid Pandemic, Protest Peacefully While Staying HealthyHow to Get Better Sleep While Working at HomeIn a Pandemic-Stressed America, Protests Add to Mental StrainHealth Warning Labels Could Cut Soda Sales
Links
Related Topics

Anger Management
Stress Reduction and Management

How Fast You Walk Might Show How Fast You're Aging

HealthDay News
by By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Oct 11th 2019

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Oct. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged folks who worry about healthy aging would do well to keep an eye on their walking speed.

Turns out that the walking speed of 45-year-olds is a pretty solid marker of how their brains and bodies are aging, a new study suggests.

Slow walkers appear to be aging more rapidly, said senior researcher Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. They've lost more brain volume in middle-age than folks with a quicker walking pace, and also perform worse on physical and mental tests, she said.

"For those people who were slow walkers for their age group, they already had many of the signs of failing health that are regularly tested in a geriatric clinic," Moffitt said.

In the study, middle-aged people who walked slower than 3.6-feet per second ranked in the lowest fifth when it comes to walking speed, and those are the individuals already showing signs of rapid aging, said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"It takes many body systems to have you walk well," Studenski said. "It takes a good heart, good lungs, good nervous system, good strength, good musculoskeletal system and a variety of other things. Gait speed summarizes the health of all of your body's systems."

Gait speed tests are a standard part of geriatric care, and are regularly given to people 65 and older, Moffitt said.

"The slower a person walks, that is a good predictor of impending mortality," Moffitt said. "The slower they walk, the more likely they will pass away."

Moffitt and her colleagues suspected that gait tests might be valuable given at an earlier age, figuring that walking speed could serve as an early indicator of how well middle-aged people are aging.

To test this notion, the researchers turned to a long-term study of nearly 1,000 people born in a single year in Dunedin, New Zealand. These people have been tested regularly since their birth in 1972-1973 regarding a wide variety of medical concerns.

This group of study participants recently turned 45, and as they did, the research team tested their walking speed by asking each to repeatedly amble down a 25-foot-long electronic pad, Moffitt said.

Each person walked down the pad at their normal rate, and then again as fast as they could. They also were asked to walk as fast as possible while reciting the alphabet backward, Moffitt said.

All of the participants then were subjected to a battery of aging tests normally used in geriatric clinics.

In addition, they underwent an MRI brain scan to test the volume of their brains, since a shrinking brain has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The participants also were given a variety of mental and physical tests. The physical tests involved things like balancing on one foot, standing up out of a chair as fast as they could, or gripping a monitor as tightly as they could to test hand strength.

"All these things are very subtle," Moffitt said. "They're not anything that would knock you over with a feather. You have to test them in order to find them."

The findings showed that people who were in the lowest fifth for walking speed had signs of premature and rapid aging.

Studenski said, "It's the bottom 20% that's by far in bigger trouble than the others."

The slower walkers also looked older to a panel of eight screeners asked to guess each participant's age from a facial photograph.

The findings were published online Oct. 11 in JAMA Network Open.

A gait test could be an easy and low-cost way for primary care doctors to test how well middle-aged patients are aging, said Studenski, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.

Doctors could place sensors at the beginning and end of a hallway, and test patients' walking speed as they head down to the examination room, she added.

However, doctors would need to be taught how to interpret gait speed for middle-aged patients, the same way that geriatricians already are trained to interpret walking speed in seniors.

Middle-aged people with a slower gait could try to slow their aging by eating healthy, exercising, quitting smoking, and maintaining better control over risk factors like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, Studenski and Moffitt suggested.

An even better use of walking speed could be as an early test of drugs and therapies meant to counter dementia and other diseases of aging, Moffitt said.

These therapies usually are difficult to assess because researchers have to wait years for people to grow old and display the hoped-for benefits, she noted.

"They need something cheap and effective they can do now to evaluate these treatments," Moffitt said. "If they give it to people and it speeds up their walking, we've really got something there."

More information

Harvard Medical School has more about walking for your health.