Posts Tagged ‘walking’

By Dennis Thompson

Middle-aged folks who worry about healthy aging would do well to keep an eye on their walking speed.

Turns out that the walking speed of 45-year-olds is a pretty solid marker of how their brains and bodies are aging, a new study suggests.

Slow walkers appear to be aging more rapidly, said senior researcher Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. They’ve lost more brain volume in middle-age than folks with a quicker walking pace, and also perform worse on physical and mental tests, she said.

“For those people who were slow walkers for their age group, they already had many of the signs of failing health that are regularly tested in a geriatric clinic,” Moffitt said.

In the study, middle-aged people who walked slower than 3.6-feet per second ranked in the lowest fifth when it comes to walking speed, and those are the individuals already showing signs of rapid aging, said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“It takes many body systems to have you walk well,” Studenski said. “It takes a good heart, good lungs, good nervous system, good strength, good musculoskeletal system and a variety of other things. Gait speed summarizes the health of all of your body’s systems.”

Gait speed tests are a standard part of geriatric care, and are regularly given to people 65 and older, Moffitt said.

“The slower a person walks, that is a good predictor of impending mortality,” Moffitt said. “The slower they walk, the more likely they will pass away.”

Moffitt and her colleagues suspected that gait tests might be valuable given at an earlier age, figuring that walking speed could serve as an early indicator of how well middle-aged people are aging.

To test this notion, the researchers turned to a long-term study of nearly 1,000 people born in a single year in Dunedin, New Zealand. These people have been tested regularly since their birth in 1972-1973 regarding a wide variety of medical concerns.

This group of study participants recently turned 45, and as they did, the research team tested their walking speed by asking each to repeatedly amble down a 25-foot-long electronic pad, Moffitt said.

Each person walked down the pad at their normal rate, and then again as fast as they could. They also were asked to walk as fast as possible while reciting the alphabet backward, Moffitt said.

All of the participants then were subjected to a battery of aging tests normally used in geriatric clinics.

In addition, they underwent an MRI brain scan to test the volume of their brains, since a shrinking brain has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The participants also were given a variety of mental and physical tests. The physical tests involved things like balancing on one foot, standing up out of a chair as fast as they could, or gripping a monitor as tightly as they could to test hand strength.

“All these things are very subtle,” Moffitt said. “They’re not anything that would knock you over with a feather. You have to test them in order to find them.”

The findings showed that people who were in the lowest fifth for walking speed had signs of premature and rapid aging.

Studenski said, “It’s the bottom 20% that’s by far in bigger trouble than the others.”

The slower walkers also looked older to a panel of eight screeners asked to guess each participant’s age from a facial photograph.

The findings were published online Oct. 11 in JAMA Network Open.

A gait test could be an easy and low-cost way for primary care doctors to test how well middle-aged patients are aging, said Studenski, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.

Doctors could place sensors at the beginning and end of a hallway, and test patients’ walking speed as they head down to the examination room, she added.

However, doctors would need to be taught how to interpret gait speed for middle-aged patients, the same way that geriatricians already are trained to interpret walking speed in seniors.

Middle-aged people with a slower gait could try to slow their aging by eating healthy, exercising, quitting smoking, and maintaining better control over risk factors like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, Studenski and Moffitt suggested.

An even better use of walking speed could be as an early test of drugs and therapies meant to counter dementia and other diseases of aging, Moffitt said.

These therapies usually are difficult to assess because researchers have to wait years for people to grow old and display the hoped-for benefits, she noted.

“They need something cheap and effective they can do now to evaluate these treatments,” Moffitt said. “If they give it to people and it speeds up their walking, we’ve really got something there.”

SOURCES: Terrie Moffitt, Ph.D., professor, psychology and neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Stephanie Studenski, M.D., MPH, geriatrician, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Oct. 11, 2019, JAMA Network Open, online

https://consumer.healthday.com/senior-citizen-information-31/misc-aging-news-10/how-fast-you-walk-might-show-how-fast-you-re-aging-751167.html

William Shuttleworth, 71, of Newburyport, Massachusetts walked across the country for over three months. He told NBC 7’s Lauren Coronado he did it all for U.S. veterans.

Shuttleworth left Massachusetts on May 15 and arrived at his last stop in San Diego on Sunday.

An Air Force veteran himself, Shuttleworth said he wanted to raise awareness for veteran’s issues like suicide, healthcare and homelessness.

“To know that you can still do this at my age of 71 and do this for veterans… It’s pretty emotional,” Shuttleworth said. “It’s pretty honoring to be able to do this.”

His journey took him 3,600 miles or 10 million steps across the country. He said he wore out five pairs of shoes along the way.

Shuttleworth claimed the only items he needed for the trip were a 28-pound backpack with two changes of clothes and a tent.

“It was some tough times once I got to Blythe and El Centro. It was 114 degrees a couple days. It can melt you.”

“On the average day I burned about 7,000 calories. That’s a plate of lasagna, nine by 13. I can eat that every day and lose weight,” Shuttleworth joked.

When asked why he made the journey, he said, “Veterans were willing to put their life on the line for every breath of fresh air that we have. Don’t you think that’s worth a lot?”

As Shuttleworth finished his walk in San Diego, he was greeted by supporters and veterans from all over the U.S.

Shuttleworth added, “I can’t let these people down now. I have a mission to accomplish and I’m not going to let it go. I probably won’t walk across America again, but I can do a lot more by continuing my advocacy.”

William Shuttleworth said his next big project is to create a non-profit organization focused on veterans and homelessness.

Shuttleworth’s website has more information about how to support his cause: https://vetsdontforgetvets.com/

by Mary Jo DiLonardo

A new study finds that lunchtime strolls can immediately improve your mood, increase relaxation, and make you more enthusiastic about your work.

This doesn’t seem like news. After all, we’ve known forever that walking — and exercise — is good for you. But as the New York Times points out, those fitness studies typically looked at the long-term effects of exercise plans. This new study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, looks at changes that happen more quickly, from one day to the next or even hour to hour.

For the study, researchers gathered a group of mostly sedentary office workers in the U.K. and asked them to take 30-minute lunchtime walks, three days a week for 10 weeks. Most of the volunteers were middle-aged women, although a handful of men also agreed to take part. All were out of shape, but otherwise emotionally and physically healthy.

The volunteers installed apps on their phones that allowed them to answer questions on the mornings and afternoons that they walked. The researchers used those answers to assess how the volunteers were feeling at the time about life and work, and to measure their feelings about everything from stress and tension to motivation and fatigue.

When the researchers compared the volunteers’ responses on the afternoons when they walked to the afternoons they didn’t walk, there was quite a difference. On the days after a lunchtime amble, the volunteers said they felt less tense, more enthusiastic, more relaxed and able to cope versus on the days when they didn’t walk and even compared to the mornings before they walked.

Those positive feelings may even translate into better worker productivity.

“There is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity,” lead author Cecile Thogersen-Ntoumani, professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, told the New York Times. “So we would expect that people who walked at lunchtime would be more productive.”

Not surprisingly, the walkers also reaped some positive health benefits from the experiment, making gains in aerobic fitness, for example.

Unfortunately, the researchers told the Times, many of the volunteers didn’t believe they’d be able to continue walking once the study ended, primarily because they were expected to work through their lunch breaks.

http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/why-you-need-walk-lunchtime

Older people with a slow walking pace are at increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia, according to a new meta-analysis.

“In light of its characteristics of safety, cost-effectiveness, and ease to test and interpret, walking pace may be an effective indicator of the development of cognitive decline and dementia in older people,” Dr. Minghui Quan of Shanghai University of Sport in China and colleagues write in their report, published online December 6 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Past research has linked walking pace to cognitive dysfunction, but the size of the association and whether there is a dose-response relationship has not been studied systematically, the researchers state. To investigate, they reviewed 17 prospective studies of walking pace. Seven looked at cognitive decline, seven at dementia, and three studies included both outcomes.

The 10 studies of cognitive decline included nearly 10,000 participants, while the 10 studies with dementia as an outcome included more than 14,000. The slowest walkers had an 89% higher risk of cognitive decline (95% confidence interval, 1.54 – 2.31), but there was no linear relationship between walking pace and cognitive decline risk.

Dementia risk was 66% higher in individuals with the slowest walking pace versus those with the fastest pace (95% CI, 1.43 – 1.92). Three studies included data on dose-response relationship, and found a relative risk of cognitive decline of 1.13 for each decimeter/second drop in walking pace (95% CI, 1.08 – 1.18).

Walking pace may be an indicator of cognitive function for many reasons, Dr. Quan and colleagues note. For example, walking pace is associated with muscle strength, and muscle loss has been tied to inflammation, oxidative stress and other factors related to cognitive function.

Walking is not an automatic activity, they add, but “requires a seamless coordination of several neurologic systems including motor, sensory, and cerebellar activities.” Slow walking pace could also contribute to physical inactivity, they add, which in turn is associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

“Since a randomized clinical trial on walking pace and cognitive function may not be feasible due to practical considerations, future well-designed, large-scale, prospective cohort studies are needed to determine the age-, sex-, and population-specified cutoff values for walking pace, in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of this early indicator of cognitive decline and dementia,” Dr. Quan and colleagues conclude.