Walking speed indicates risk of dementia and disease

What our walking speed says about our aging

According to a recent study, how fast people walk at the age of 45 indicates how high the risk of fatal diseases and dementia is in later life.

The current study by Duke University has now determined that our walking speed can indicate health problems later in life. The results of the investigation were published in the English language journal "JAMA Network Open".

Do slow-moving people age faster?

At the age of 45 in slow-moving people, it was found that both the body and brain had aged more than was the case in faster-walking people. In addition, the lungs, teeth and immune system were generally in poorer health. The results of the study could lead to a screening program for Alzheimer's and other life-threatening diseases. Signs of health damage can be identified in middle age with a simple test of walking speed, the researchers report. If people age 45 go slower than average, they may experience accelerated aging.

Childhood exams can predict future walking speed

In addition, the research team showed that measuring brain function at an early age can indicate a possible risk of health problems later in life. Already at the age of three, the values ​​for IQ, language comprehension, frustration tolerance, motor skills and emotional control indicated how fast these people would go 42 years later.

Long-term study monitored people over 45 years

The new study covers the period from preschool to mid-life. It was found that slow walking can indicate specific health problems decades before middle age. The study is based on a long-term study with 904 people from New Zealand. They were medically monitored all their lives up to the age of 45. The last examination also included magnetic resonance imaging.

Why does slow walking indicate health problems?

The average volume of gray and white matter, cortical thickness, and brain surface were lower in the slow-moving people. These people also more often had small lesions associated with blood vessel disease. In summary, one could say that the brain of these people looked a little older.

Slow-moving people also looked older

The researchers also had eight people not participating in the study assess the age of the participants using a photo. It was noticed that slow-moving people were older. Running speed has long been used as a measure of health and aging in geriatric patients. In the new study, it has now been observed that slow walking can indicate serious health problems at the age of 45. Some of the differences in health and cognition can be related to lifestyle choices that people have made. But the study also suggests that early in life there are signs of who will slow down later in life. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Line Jee Hartmann Rasmussen, Avshalom Caspi, Antony Ambler, Jonathan M. Broadbent, Harvey J. Cohen et al .: Association of Neurocognitive and Physical Function With Gait Speed ​​in Midlife, in JAMA Network Open (query: 12.10.2019), JAMA Network Open

Video: Lab Visit: Testing Gait and Brain Function excerpt (October 2021).