Walking Speed May Predict How Long You Live

As you get older, the stroll that was once a walk in the park may get difficult for any number of reasons: angina, arthritis, poor balance, failing vision. In the later decades of life, walking becomes as much an indicator of health as a promoter of it. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have published research in JAMA showing that after about age 65, how fast you walk may predict how long you will live.
Walking (gait) speed has long been recognized as a proxy for overall health and vitality and has been measured in many research projects. The University of Pittsburgh researchers pooled results of nine studies involving nearly 35,000 people and found a remarkably consistent association between faster gait speed and longer life, in both men and women ages 65 and older. More precisely, each increase of 0.1 meter per second in gait speed was associated with a 12% reduction in the risk of dying during a given study’s follow-up period (from six to 21 years, depending on the study). They also calculated that people with gait speeds of 1 meter per second ( 3.5 kms per hour) or faster lived longer than would be expected given their age or gender.When other factors such as body mass index and past hospitalisation were considered, the relationship between gait speed and longevity didn’t change much, suggesting that walking speed is independently associated with life expectancy, not just a marker for other conditions that would affect it.
While this study didn’t determine whether improving walking speed would increase life span, other research from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that it might. Researchers tested walking speed in a group of nearly 500 men and women, ages 65 and older, over the course of a year and categorised everyone based on whether their walking speed improved. During the eight-year follow-up, only 32% of the speedier walkers died, compared with 49% of the steady-paced walkers. It’s never too late to put a little spring in your steps.

March 27, 2022

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