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Walking speed may predict longevity in seniors

January 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Doctors may have a new measurement for predicting how long you're going to live, and it may be as simple as figuring out how fast you walk."The reason that there's a relationship between walking speed and longevity is because you're walking speed is a very simple reflection of how well many of your body systems are doing," said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrics specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.

In this report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Studenski and co-authors evaluated data from almost 35,000 seniors participating in nine of the largest ongoing aging studies in the world. They looked at baseline walking speed and a variety of other health factors.

Participants were followed up to 20 years.

"In every population, no matter how old they were, what sex they were, what kind of health conditions they had, there was a strong relationship between walking speed and survival," said Dr. Studenski.

She was able to put together tables and graphs estimating a person's years of remaining life.

Across an entire life span, researchers say we become more different from each other as we age. Figuring out this formula can give us all some insight into longevity.

"This kind of information might be useful and valuable to the health care systems, to doctors, families and patients in giving them a sense of their own vitality and longevity," said Dr. Studenski.

Researchers say it's not just about walking faster, it's about figuring out what is a safe and efficient walking speed based on how a person's body is working.