Gait speed, or the pace at which a person walks, has long been effectively used as a biomarker for neurological and physiological health in older subjects. A fascinating new study is for the first time suggesting that gait speed may also be an effective measure of biological aging for someone in their 40s.
“Doctors know that slow walkers in their seventies and eighties tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” explains senior author Terrie Moffitt. “But this study covered the period from the preschool years to midlife, and found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age.”
The data used in the research comes from the influential longitudinal study known as the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. This study has been closely following a single cohort of subjects since birth in the early 1970s. All 904 subjects, currently aged 45, were measured for gait speed.
The researchers were testing two hypotheses, whether middle-age gait speed could reflect early signs of accelerated biological aging, and whether slow middle-age gait speed could be linked to poor neurocognitive functioning in childhood.