What’s Up With This???
It’s all over the news. Slow and steady may win the race after all — if it’s a race to the graveyard.
Researchers now claim that walking speeds can actually predict how long you’ll live — and if you’re on the slow side, you might want to get on the horn with your lawyer and make sure your will is up to date.
Put the phone down, I’m kidding. No need to panic — yet — because I’m not sold on this one. But it’s an interesting theory, so let’s take quick a look at it.
Researchers crunched the numbers on some 35,000 seniors who took part in nine studies that, among other things, measured their walking speeds. All of them were still living at home. These weren’t patients shuffling through hospitals and nursing homes, but independent seniors. However, some of whom just so happened to leave the rest in the dust, in more ways than one.
Here’s what they found:
- Walk faster than 3.3 feet per second (2.25 mph), and you might outlive your life insurance policy.
- Walk slower than 2 feet per second (1.36 mph), and you might be on borrowed time.
More specifically, a 70-year-old man who cruises at 2.5 mph will live an average of 8 years longer than one who trudges at 1 mph, while women that age can expect an extra decade.
But does your walking speed REALLY make that much of a difference? I doubt it – not on its own anyway.
Despite any adjustments these researchers may have made in their study, anyone who’s limping along at 1 measly mile per hour has something seriously wrong — and maybe it just hasn’t been diagnosed yet.
If you have all the speed of a tortoise and you’re not suffering from an obvious leg, foot, or calf injury, you need to find out why your motor coordination is so out of whack — because THAT, and not your walking speed by itself, is probably the real culprit here.
But at the same time, maybe you should pick up the pace a little. Just in case. Anyway, here is the actual story:
Can the pace at which people walk predict how long they are going to live? That’s what a new study indicates.
Stephanie Studenski, of the University of Pittsburg, and colleagues analyzed data collected from nine studies conducted between 1986 and 2000. It involved 34,485 adults ages 65 and older whose gait speed was measured while walking at their usual pace.
In a paper published Jan. 7, 2011, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers calculated that an individual’s walking speed was associated with their probability of survival at all ages and for both sexes. Doctors who are interested in measuring life expectancy may now have a simple way to do it — researchers have discovered that walking speed can be a useful predictor of how long older adults live.
Those who walked 1 meter per second (about 2.25 mph) or faster consistently lived longer than others of their age and sex who walked more slowly, the study showed. “We’re able to show that a person’s capacity to move strongly reflects vitality and health,” said study researcher Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh .
Let Your Body Guide You
The researchers also emphasized that the purpose of this study wasn’t to get people to walk faster in hopes of living longer.
“Your body chooses the walking speed that is best for you, and that is your speed, your health indicator,” Studenski said. “And that’s what it really is: an indicator. Going out and walking faster does not necessarily mean you will suddenly live longer. You still need to address the underlying health issues.”
The researchers showed they could reliably predict the 10-year survival rate of a group of people based on how fast they walked along a 4-meter track.
The walking speed for those with the average life expectancy was about 0.8 meters per second (about 1.8 mph) for most age groups of both sexes. Walking speed was a more accurate predictor of life expectancy than age or sex, the study showed.
The numbers were especially accurate for those older than 75. This suggests that for older people, walking speed could be a sort of “vital sign,” like blood pressure and heart rate, the researchers said.
“When you think about it, a sick person would not have that certain spring in their steps. Therefore, it should not be surprising that walking speed can provide a simple glimpse into aging and health status,” Studenski said.
The findings were based on analysis of nine previous studies that examined the walking speed, sex, age, body mass index, medical history and survival rate of almost 34,500 people.
The way we walk and how quickly we can walk depends on our energy, movement control and coordination. These, in turn, requires the proper functioning of multiple body systems, including the cardiovascular, nervous and musculoskeletal systems, Studenski told MyHealthNewsDaily. Because of this, researchers have associated walking speed with health in the past.
“But in the past, we simply knew that walking faster was better,” said Dr. Matteo Cesari, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new findings, but was not involved in the study.
“This study provides us the numerical basis to estimate survival for each walking speed measured on an older person,” Cesari said.
“When we measure, for example, blood pressure, we need a cut-off point to understand whether it is normal or not. Similarly, we now have a cut-off point to understand whether the overall health of a person is normal for his/her age by simply testing their walking speed,” said Cesari.
Studenski said this finding will have many practical applications. It is a quick and inexpensive way for seniors to gauge their own health. Similarly, doctors can monitor and remedy their patients’ quality of life based on this. Walking speed, and in turn, mobility, will be a useful way to measure whether someone is still maintaining a healthy, active and independent lifestyle.