Is Your Walking Pace Linked to How Fast You’ll Age?

Walking Pace Predicts AgingWe all know that walking is beneficial to our health: it improves our cardiovascular fitness, brain clarity, and helps reduce anxiety and stress. Many studies of adults 70 to 80 years old have shown that fast walking is associated to longevity.

New data has recently come out suggesting that the pace at which we walk may predict our future health.

Slow walkers have faster aging brains

A recent study published in JAMA Open Network found that slow walkers demonstrated accelerated brain aging when compared to fast walkers at age 45. Researchers studied 904 subjects from the age of 3 until 45 to study lifestyle and behavioral factors that affect aging.

MRIs performed on the subjects at age 45 showed visible signs of brain aging in the slow walker group: they had lower brain size, less brain thickness, less brain surface area and a high amount of white matter caused by decreased blood flow. In short, they had prematurely aged brains.

Slow walkers also have faster aging skin

But that’s not all. Researchers also noted a difference in the physical appearance of the fast versus slow walkers. The fast walkers’ “facial age” appeared younger than the slow walkers, suggesting that walking pace not only correlates to brain health, but also to skin health.

“The thing that’s really striking is that this is in 45-year-old people, not the geriatric patients who are usually assessed with such measures,” said lead researcher Line J.H. Rasmussen.

 Our walking pace can predict how we’ll age

The implications of this research are huge because it means that by measuring the walking speed of people at age 45, we can predict their aging process long before signs of aging and disability arise. “We may have a chance here to see who’s going to do better health-wise in later life,” Rasmussen notes.

Now before you get all crazy timing your walking pace, there’s an important component of this study you should know about. When the study participants were just 3 years old, they underwent neurocognitive tests that correctly predicted who would become a fast or slow walker.

Everyone’s natural walking pace appears to be hard-wired from birth

Early Walking Pace Predicts AgingThese tests included IQ scores, language comprehension, frustration tolerance, motor skills, and emotional control. It turned out that these factors accurately predicted the walking speed these individuals would have at age 45.

While it’s mind-blowing to think that we can use these tests to predict at age 3 who is at risk for accelerated aging, these findings could help us identify those at risk and keep an eye out for certain health complications later in life before symptoms even arise. And by course correcting before problems set in, these folks can have healthier senior years.

So, the next time you’re banging out your 10,000 steps, take note of your pace. If you find there’s a little spring in your step, you may well live a longer and healthier life.

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