The walking speed that foretells a longer life

10th September 2019
In order to have a longer and higher quality life, many parameters and certain habits must be taken into account. To what extent does our walking speed influence our health?

An interesting study performed in the United States evaluated the walking speed of 35 thousand people over 21 years. The objective: to establish parameters and measure the way people walk and their speed. The results invite us to reflect on an activity that’s as frequent as it’s necessary.

The report from the University of Pittsburgh was published in Live Science. It reflects the extensive research that featured women and men from the ages of 65 and up. The premise was that walking speed could be an indicator of health and longevity.

How can walking speed foretell longevity?

Predicting the lifespan of a person rarely leads to precise numbers. However, Pittsburgh scientists decided to make a hypothesis about how walking speed influences health and vice versa. So they opted to track more than 30 thousand people between 1986 and 2000.

Dr. Stephani Studenski was in charge of the study and she would use the following fact as a premise, in her own words:

Walking implies a particular regulation of energy and movement, with a focus on foothold. When walking, a multiplicity of organic systems come into action, so that the heart, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems activate to a greater or lesser extent.”

How was the walking speed of the participants measured?

Just as we measure the speed of any vehicle, the research was based on the relationship between space and time. This means that they measured the walking speed according to the distance traveled per second, measured in meters per second. 

You can measure your walking speed based on time and distance.

The benchmark in conducting this study was six meters from one spot. The point was for them to walk at a normal pace, just as they did every day.

On average,  the participants would walk at a speed of 0.92 meters per second. As expected, many of these people died before the end of the investigation period. More than 17,000 volunteers perished in the first decade after the study began.

The results of the investigation

The results show that 85 percent of the people who died before the age of 70 failed to exceed 0.6 meters per second. On the other hand, those who lived more than 10 years past 70 did exceed these figures. 

What’s notorious is experts noticing that our walking speed affects our health the most after the seventh decade of life. At this stage, the benefits we can achieve are clear.

This is how the study could establish health and mortality parameters according to the motor observation of older adults. However, it’s worth noting that these are relative values. When analyzing a person’s health, everything will depend on specific circumstances.

The importance of walking speed in longevity

Dr. Studenski didn’t fail to point out that the people who walked a meter per second generally aspired to live a fairly long life. According to this thesis, people can live a hundred years after spending their entire lives walking calmly.

Nonetheless, it’s important to note that people who gradually increased their walking speed during the study could achieve greater longevity. This knowledge, which seems obvious, is very useful in practice since it will put into motion prevention and treatment devices for people over 70 years old.

Increasing your walking speed can allow you to live longer.

According to this idea, a doctor specializing in geriatrics, Matteo Cesari, said that it’s “statistically acceptable” to include the walking speed in the calculation of life expectancy for the elderly. This specialist, originally from Rome, agreed that the results of the research provide doctors with tools to measure the health of their patients.

By way of conclusion, one can quote Cesari again:

“Doctors can get a pretty complete notion of their patients just by looking at them. However, standardizing the observation allows greater success.”

This way, professionals could use the walking speed of older adults as a unifying parameter. The objective would be to offer diagnoses and treatments more adapted to each case.

  • Iris Tse. 2011. ¿Lo rápido que caminas puede predecir cuánto tiempo vas a vivir? Extraído de: https://www.livescience.com/10406-fast-walk-predict-long-youll-live.html
  • Asociación A Pie. Beneficios de andar. Extraído de: http://www.asociacionapie.org/apie/Activamadrid_documento%20salud-web.pdf