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Your Healthy Family: Can walking speed predict aging?

Posted at 11:51 AM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 13:51:47-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Heading outdoors for a walk is a good way to stay active during the pandemic.

But if you’re a slow walker – you might want to pick up the pace.

Recent research suggests people who walk slower in middle age, may age faster and have more brain dysfunction.

Michael Roizen, MD, did not take part in the study, but said our physical and mental health are tied together.

“As you stress your muscles as you walk faster, you produce hormones and proteins that stimulate your brain to grow and stimulate brain function. So, there is some rationale to this.”

Researchers looked at more than 40 years’ worth of data on 904 people in New Zealand.

They studied participants’ mental function starting at age three, and followed them into middle age.

Results show slow walking speed at age 45 was associated with accelerated aging and brain decline.

Dr. Roizen said it’s well known that slow walking speed in the elderly is a sign of deteriorating mental function.

However, he said identifying a slower walking pace, while still in your forties, provides an opportunity to intervene.

“As early as 45, you could tell these people were on a downhill slope. What does that mean? It means that if you look at your walking speed and it starts to slow, do all the other things for brain health,” said Dr. Roizen.

To improve brain health, Dr. Roizen recommends stress management, physical activity, speed processing games, and avoiding saturated fats and sugars – to name a few.

Complete results can be found online in JAMA Network Open.