Scientific studies have shown that the speed at which a person can walk is a strong predictor of adverse physical health conditions that could occur in the future like physical disability, hospitalization, institutionalization and mortality.
The “ Toledo Study in Aging ” was conducted from 1996-2007. 2,651 subjects aged 65 years and older volunteered and were studied for a variety of senior issues over the 11 year period. One issue studied was: Would the results from a 4-meter timed walking test be a predictor of mortality? (The walking test was given at the beginning of the study in 1996.)
Subsets of 2,078 people were enrolled in the walking test. 53.8% were females and the total mean age of the study participants in this arm was 74.8 years of age. At the end of the follow-up (11 years), 751 participants had died.
Was there any relationship of the deaths to their initial walking speed? The answer, yes! The 4-meter initial walk time showed a different risk of death for each group tested: 15% for the group that could walk the fastest vs. 26.5% for the group that walked the slowest. That’s almost double! After the scientists adjusted for variables in the initial health of the participants, they concluded that those individuals with the slowest initial 4-meter walk time had a higher risk of death over 11 years than those participants with the faster initial walk time.
The take away from this portion of the Toledo Study is that we all need pick up the pace when we walk a little bit if we want to live a longer.
As for those of us in professional Caregiving, it might be important to coordinate a more proactive physical activity program with your senior and Alzheimer's clients and their physician.
Dr. Ken Romeo is known as "The Alzheimer's Doc." He owns and operates an In-Home senior health care company that specializes in Alzheimer's care in Reno, Nevada.