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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walking speed appears to be a superior tool to predict remaining years of life than more complicated assessments, says a study appearing 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 may be due to its simplicity: “[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 study 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 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 of senior citizens.

The most conclusive data corresponded to older individuals, but the researchers are quick to point out that gait speed was 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.

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