The 'Race for Life' a plan for those over 60 by Fun With Fitness: image via funwithfitness.net Walking fast doesn't just help you lose weight, it's a major factor in longevity.
Researchers from several U.S. and international universities and institutes on aging undertook a study of the relationship between gait speed and longevity. In a pooled analysis of 9 separate studies conducted between 1986 and 2000, they analyzed individual data from 34,485 adults. These adults were aged 65 and older with recorded baseline speed data and they were followed for 6 to 21 years.
Why did the researchers hypothesize that gait speed might have an effect on life span? The authors write that, "Walking requires energy, movement control, and support, and (it) places
demands on multiple organ systems, including the heart, lungs,
circulatory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. Slowing gait may
reflect both damaged systems and a high energy cost of walking."
Participants in the follow up studies had an average age of 73.5 years. Participants were asked to walk at a regular pace for 8 to 18 feet. The median gait rate was 2.6 feet per second for both sexes, but gait speeds of 3.3 feet per second or higher were associated with a longer survival rates, regardless of gender and age.
Knowing that gait speed and longevity are related should be a great inspiration to all of us. But there are more lessons in this data, particularly for the clinician. If appropriate gait speeds are established for each age level, regular gait testing could be used as a means of predicting longevity, prescribing a course of longevity "training," and as a quick tool for identifying and treating immediate health concerns.
As the authors conclude: "Gait speed may be a simple and accessible indicator of the health of the older person."
Medical News Today, Journal of the American Medical Association