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Sunday 16th June 2019

Faster walkers live longer

10th January 2011

Elderly people's walking pace can be used to determine their longevity, according to a recent US study.


The researchers made use of nine studies, all of which took place over a 15-year period.

People whose walking speeds were usually faster than one metre per second also had life expectancy rates that consistently were higher than that of their peers.

For people over age 65, there was a strong statistical tie linking average walking speed and life expectancy.

And for people over age 75, the link between walking speed and life expectancy was particularly marked, faster walking speeds being linked to higher rates of life expectancy.

The researchers wrote that faster walking speeds required more energy and movement control, as well as support, than slower walking did.

They also wrote that walking faster placed demands on multiple systems of organs, and that a slowing gait could therefore be a symptom of damaged systems.

In all of the studies analysed by the researchers, the number of years of remaining life for each sex and age increased proportionally to increases in walking speed.

The researchers also wrote that clinicians, health system planners, and investigators could all make use of simple gait measurements.

Although walking pace seems like a basic thing, the statistical reliability of gait as a measurement of life expectancy can be just as good as that of a combined assessment derived from blood pressure, body mass index, hospitalisations, smoking history, and chronic conditions.

Study co-author Stephanie Studenski, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Division of Geriatric Medicine, said that she hoped her research would lend walking speed a more overt reality, as far as doctors were concerned, by measuring it.

She said that people had a remarkably stable preferred walking speed, and that the body seemed to of self-select a gait that best accommodated its own limitations.

The requirements for using gait as a measurement of longevity are minimal, requiring only a stopwatch.

However, people who administer the test need to be properly trained in how to do so.

Studenski also said that, as with the so-called white coat hypertension, in which a person's blood pressure rises due to the fact that their doctor is measuring their blood pressure, walking pace needed to be measured in a way that did not bias the results.

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