What is the pace of your usual walk? Brisk and peppy, or slow-paced? Turns out that the gait of your walk provides reams of information to onlookers and health practitioners about your age – and brain health.
Physicians have long used walking speed as a marker for cognitive capacity in older people, since gait is linked to the central nervous system. But perhaps more interestingly, you don’t have to be a senior for walking pace to play a significant part in your overall health.
New research suggests that even people in their 40s who walk slowly are more likely to have slower functioning brains.
A new Duke University study is the first to suggest that the gait health analysis might work for younger people as well as seniors, reports BBC.com. The data comes from a long-term study that followed approximately 900 New Zealanders from their birth in the 1970s to their 45th birthdays. The study tested participant walking speed and examined their physical health in addition to brain function.
Significantly, the slower walkers tended to display signs of accelerated aging – specifically in their lungs, teeth, and immune systems, as the researchers had expected. But surprisingly, MRI scans of the slow walkers’ brains looked notably older than the brains of the regular paced walkers.
Adding insult in injury, strangers who were asked to assess the age of the participants from photos of their faces said the slow walkers even looked older.
Researchers from Duke University conclude that these results suggest that, “A slow walk is a warning sign of brain decline decades before old age sets in.”
What does your brain convey about your overall health? From patterns of forgetfulness to repetitive thoughts, anxiety to inability to sleep, your brain’s optimum functioning is the key to your health – no matter what your age.
If there is something about your brain health you’d like to discuss with us, come talk with us. Our consultations are free and always confidential.