Walking Speed Could Help Reveal How Long You'll Live

Walking Speed Might Reveal How Long You'll Live

Monitoring gait could help doctors assess health of older people

Walking for Fitness
How fast an older person walks could be an indicator of longevity.
Creatures tends to slow down as they near death. But doctors don’t use this knowledge as a way of evaluating what’s happening to their patients as they age. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician who specializes in the care of older people, wants to change that by finding a way to measure diminishing walking speed.

Studenski compares assessing how fast a person walks to weighing a patient. Doctors can look at their patients and see if they’ve gained or lost weight but they also put them on a scale. Why not do the same with gait?

"If we all already know it, and it's throughout science and its throughout experience, why are we not using it in health care?  Why are we not using it in public health?" she asks. "Why don't people have this as part of their understanding as an indicator of health?  And the reason I think it's not there is that there hasn't been any way to measure it."  

Many long-term research studies of older people have collected data on how fast subjects walk. Studenski contacted the leaders of these studies and got them to give her their data about walking speed, the general health of subjects and their longevity. She collated information about nearly 35,000 people, including their ages, their walking speed and how long they lived.  She found that information about walking speed was particularly useful to predict the lifespan for people older than 75.

"There is so much variability between people as they age, more than in any other point in life, once life experience and health and nutrition have influenced how our health is later in life," Studenski says. "And so older people are very different from each other. And so this allows us more individualized our understanding of what might lie ahead at age 70, 75, 80, 85."

Studenski has developed charts that people can use to look up their probability of being alive five or 10 years later according to their age, gender and walking speed. She says clinicians could use the charts to assess patients on a regular basis and track their progress.  

"So we can sort of individualize our approach to healthcare planning, to medical management, perhaps to wellness planning more than just by age and gender."

Unfortunately, Studenski says there’s no evidence that people who work on improving their walking speed necessarily can extend their lives. But she does say more attention to walking speed can help doctors and families recognize if something’s wrong with a loved one sooner and take steps to get help. 

Studenski’s research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Walking Speed Might Reveal How Long You'll Live
Monitoring gait could help doctors assess health of older people - health article came from VOA.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to walk -  Eastern Shore of Maryland

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge 
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located 12 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland, was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory waterfowl. The refuge includes more than 27,000 acres, composed mainly of rich tidal marsh characterized by fluctuating water levels and variable salinity. Other habitat types include freshwater ponds, mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, and small amounts of cropland and managed impoundments that are seasonally flooded for waterfowl use.

Originally established for migratory birds, primarily ducks and geese, Blackwater is one of the chief wintering areas for Canada Geese using the Atlantic Flyway. Geese number approximately 35,000 and ducks exceed 15,000 at the peak of fall migration, usually in November.

Blackwater is also haven for two of our nation's threatened or endangered species. The bald eagle (which has been upgraded from endangered to threatened) and Delmarva fox squirrels are regularly seen on the Refuge.

Getting There . . . 
Take Rt. 50 into Cambridge, MD. Turn south on to Rt. 16 at the Wal-Mart shopping center (across from the entrance to the Hyatt Regency). Travel approx. 7 miles to the town of Church Creek. Turn left on to Rt. 335. Travel approx. 4 miles, then turn left at Key Wallace Drive. Travel 1.5 miles to the Visitor Center, or 3 miles to access the Wildlife Drive.

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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