Thursday, January 6, 2011

Walking speed may be used for predicting health, survival for elderly

Could walking speed analysis, also referred to as "gait speed," be a worthy tool for predicting remaining years of life? Inexpensive and simplistic, gait speed is being touted in a recent study that suggests there is a correlation between gait speed and longevity. The study recently appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Some seniors are accustomed to routine analysis of their blood pressure, BMI, consumption habits, genetic factors, and more. If the study is correct, then some seniors may want to consider monitoring their own walking speed. After all, it’d be a much less intrusive, costly, or bothersome method…with immediate feedback!

The usefulness of assessing gait speed is intuitive in nature: “[L]ife expectancy based on age and sex alone provides limited information because survival is also influenced by health and functional abilities," noted the JAMA study.

The question that comes to mind is: can “health and functional abilities” be accurately measured by gait speed?

The University of Pittsburgh conducted the study “to assess the association of gait speed with survival in older adults and to determine the degree to which gait speed explains variability in survival after accounting for age and sex,” reported by Senior Journal. This was not just a run-of-the-mill study, as it included a combined pool of 9 smaller studies and a whopping 34,485 participants. “Gait speeds of 1.0 meter (3.3 feet)/second or higher consistently demonstrated survival that was longer than expected by age and sex alone."

The most conclusive data corresponded to older individuals, but the researchers are quick to point out that gait speed is connected to likelihood of survival at all ages and in both sexes.

The gist of the study is that gait speeds correlate to survival rates which were longer than otherwise predicted by analysis of merely age and sex as the sole factors.
Image: Idea go /

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