Slow walkers have slower brains

A slow walking pace in middle age could be a sign of accelerated ageing, scientists have found.

Researchers analysed the walking speeds of more than 900 men and women from New Zealand, all of whom were 45 years old, and also gave them tests to determine their biological ages. Walking speeds – their maximum speed, and their average speed – proved to be remarkably accurate predictors of mental and physical health. In IQ tests, the slowest walkers averaged 16 points lower than the fastest; they typically had lower total brain volumes and cortical thickness; and their lungs, teeth and immune systems were less healthy.

Furthermore, strangers who were shown pictures of their eyes, and asked to estimate their ages, assumed them to be older than their fleet-of-foot peers. “The thing that is 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, from Duke University in North Carolina. (The Week 16 Oct 2019).

My comment:  What will they think of next?  And what are the slow walkers supposed to do about the results of this weird piece of research?  There is , presumably, nothing you can do about your true, biological age, except just accept the facts.  You were born with the constitution you have; enjoy your life and accept that your brain volume is what it is.  You can’t go back into the womb and swap it for a brain the size of Einstein’s.

On the other hand, these researchers must understand that all they are achieving is to create more anxiety and unhappiness among the tens of thousands of people whose age is around 45, for no particularly good reason.  This type of research is not just a waste of time and resources – these researchers should be helping to create a generation of good, kind, thoughtful and moderate citizens, which is  what students are hoping to become (we hope).

There are too many university staff members who appear to be under-employed.


One Comment

  1. In order to turn research like this into actionable information, we need to establish cause and effect. What causes people to walk slower and do lifestyle improvements (diet, fitness, stress, sleep, etc.) that result in faster walking also cause improvements in cognition?

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