How fast do you walk? Your answer has big implications

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Here’s an interesting (and perhaps unnerving) one: the speed at which you walk is indicative of the condition of your brain and physical well-being. That’s according to new research from Duke University, the findings of which were just published in JAMA Network Open. More than 900 people from Dunedin, New Zealand, participated in the long-term study. All of them were born in the same year.

According to the researchers, slower walkers tended to exhibit signs of “accelerated aging” that could be observed in their teeth, lungs and immune systems, among other things. The most intensive phase of the study took place when the participants were 45 years old, which lead researcher Line J.H. Rasmussen, a post-doctoral researcher in the Duke University department of psychology & neuroscience, called “really striking,” since most of these aging indicators are typically associated with elderly people.

Furthermore, results from cognitive tests taken by the participants when they were small children (this really was a long-term study) signaled what their walking speed would be in middle age. Eerie.

“Doctors know that slow walkers in their seventies and eighties tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” said senior author Terrie E. Moffitt, Professor of Social Development at King’s College London, according to EurekAlert! “But this study covered the period from the preschool years to midlife, and found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age.”

Participants’ brains were examined using MRI technology. Results showed that slow walkers had less total brain volume, less average cortical thickness, less brain surface area, and more lesions indicating small vessel brain disease. All of which are observable in geriatric individuals whose aging brains are losing capacity.

If that weren’t bad enough, the faces of slower walkers look older than those of their quicker counterparts. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to feel really self-conscious on my next walk around the neighborhood.