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14 October, 2019 00:00 00 AM

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How fast you walk might show how fast you’re ageing

How fast you walk 
might show how fast 
you’re ageing

Middle-aged folks who worry about healthy ageing 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 ageing, a new study suggests.

Slow walkers appear to be ageing 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 ageing, 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 summarises 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 ageing.

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 ageing 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 ageing.

    HealthDay

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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