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Gait & Longevity

January 24, 2011

Walking speed is a good indicator of overall health in older adults.


Striding into the golden years…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

How fast you walk is a good indicator of how long you’ll live — at least in older adults. This according to an analysis of nine studies, led by University of Pittsburgh geriatrician Stephanie Studenski. She says faster walkers consistently outlive their slower counterparts, especially among adults over 75. That’s because many different body systems are involved in walking.

STEPHANIE STUDENSKI (University of Pittsburgh):
And that includes heart, lungs, circulation, blood, brain, nervous system, muscles, joints, bones.

What’s not clear is whether you can improve your own health prospects by actually trying to keep up the pace as you age. But for doctors, Studenski says measuring walking speed can help spot-check an older person’s overall health, and help them decide whether to do a more comprehensive exam. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.