For older people, walking faster may be linked to living longer, a study finds

Time to step it up -- for older people, there may be a connection between walking at a faster pace and living longer. We first reported this study in summer 2009 when it was presented at the IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Paris. Tuesday the Journal of the American Medical Assn. released the study, which is again garnering attention.

Researchers analyzed nine studies of 34,485 adults age 65 or older. They and their walking speeds were followed for six to 21 years; the average speed among participants was about three feet per second.

As gait speed increased so did the number of estimated years of life left. Those who had a walking speed of 3.3 feet per second or higher had longer than expected survival rates for their age and sex alone.

“Walking requires energy, movement control, and support and places demands on multiple organ systems, including the heart, lungs, circulatory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems,” the authors wrote. “Slowing gait may reflect both damaged systems and a high energy cost of walking.”