How fast people walk in their 40s is a sign of how much their brains, as well as their bodies, are ageing, scientists have suggested.
Using a simple test of gait speed, researchers were able to measure the ageing process.
Not only were slower walkers’ bodies ageing more quickly – their faces looked older and they had smaller brains.
The international team said the findings were an “amazing surprise”.
Doctors often measure gait speed to gauge overall health, particularly in the over-65s, because it is a good indicator of muscle strength, lung function, balance, spine strength and eyesight.
Slower walking speeds in old age have also been linked to a higher risk of dementia and decline.
In this study, of 1,000 people in New Zealand – born in the 1970s and followed to the age of 45 – the walking speed test was used much earlier, on adults in mid-life.
The study participants also had physical tests, brain function tests and brain scans, and during their childhood they had had cognitive tests every couple of years.
“This study found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age,” said Prof Terrie E Moffitt, lead author from King’s College London and Duke University in the US.
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However, to balance this the government has released guidelines saying that even a small amount of exercise is beneficial. Read more about this here.
And plenty of our partners offer walking groups as well as general exercise classes and other activities. Why not ring the Living Well Sefton team on 0300 323 0181 to find what’s happening near you?