Middle-aged people who walk slowly age more quickly, according to new research, while fast walkers are physically and mentally younger.
The study, conducted in nearly 1,000 New Zealanders aged 45, found that slow walkers also had older looking faces – independently rated from photos – and smaller, older-looking brains.
People with the slowest gait performed more poorly on a range of physical tests including grip strength, balance, coordination and two-minute step tests and reported more physical limitations in their daily lives.
Rate of aging measures showed they had been growing old five years faster from the age of 26 than those with the fastest walking speed. Slow walkers had other signs of accelerated aging compared to fast walkers such as unhealthier lungs, teeth and immune systems.
Added to that, they had poorer neuropsychological functioning across a range of cognitive assessments including working memory, processing speed, verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning.
Even more unexpected, the study found that walking speed at 45 years could be predicted by childhood cognitive performance on tests of intelligence, language and motor skills.
Participants, born in the 1970s, had taken part in the longitudinal Dunedin study since the age of three, providing regular tests of physical health and brain function as well as brain scans.
“This study found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age,” Professor Terrie Moffitt told the BBC.
The team said the results were “an amazing surprise”, and the first time walking speed earlier in life has been linked to premature aging.
Doctors often measure walking speed in older adults over 65 as an indicator of general health, as it is linked to muscle strength, lung function, balance, spine strength and vision.
These reflect the importance of mobility for remaining independent and retaining quality of life.
More seriously, slower gait in this age group has also been associated with poorer rehabilitation, greater incidence of diseases – including heart disease and dementia – and shorter life span.
“Doctors know that slow walkers in their 70s and 80s tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” Moffitt told Medical News Today.
A brisk walking pace is generally considered as 100 steps per minute, or around five kilometres per hour – but of course this is relative to people’s fitness levels.
A good guide is to walk faster than you would normally, at a pace that makes you breathe a bit harder and your heart beat faster.
When you get a little sweaty and out of breath, this is considered moderate-intensity activity, which has several known health benefits such as improving balance and coordination, and keeping heart, lungs and circulation healthy.
In turn, this lowers the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It could also strengthen bones and muscles and help prevent osteoporosis, although a range of different activities are recommended for optimal benefits.
The key is to find enjoyable walking routes – alone or with a friend, partner or walking group if that’s more motivating – and ways to get active that are fun and enjoyable.
Just pick up the pace up a little.
A new study has found that adults over 84 years who eat more protein are less likely to suffer disability, which is a significant problem in this growing age group.
Researchers took food diaries from 722 community-dwelling adults in the UK and measured disability according to difficulty performing daily activities like moving around the house, getting in and out of a chair, shopping, walking and climbing stairs.
Progression of disability, followed up 18 months, 3 and 5 years later, fell into four distinct categories, from very low to severe.
Results showed that adults who ate more protein were less likely to become disabled over the 5-year follow-up than those with lower protein intake, after factoring in gender, education, physical activity, cognition and chronic diseases.
Lead author of the study, Dr Nuno Mendonca, told Nutrition Insight, “We believe that the largest benefit of protein consumption is due to delaying muscle mass and strength loss.”
Protein is critical for maintaining lean muscle mass, needed for strength and mobility, and healthy bone density. Not only that, if protein stores are low, the liver will draw on the muscle’s protein stores to maintain energy levels between meals.
Dietary protein also has a multitude of other important bodily functions including formation of enzymes and hormones, transporting molecules through the bloodstream, manufacturing antibodies and regulating acid-alkaline levels.
Adults in the study who consumed 1g protein per kg of body weight each day were more likely to have lower disability, supporting calls to increase recommended protein intakes.
For a 58 kg person, that could easily be met by eating 2 eggs for breakfast, 100g yoghurt with lunch and a 100g serve of salmon for dinner – all soft foods for people with dentition or swallowing difficulties.
For adults with poor appetite, eating small meals with protein shakes for morning and afternoon tea will help boost protein intake.
It’s important to note that protein needs increase when the body is stressed by infection, burns, cancer or injury.
And to maximise muscle mass and strength, the benefits of regular physical activity in conjunction with protein intake cannot be underestimated.
Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 16, 2018 in Mobility
Television, technology, and transport have transformed our leisure time, communication and movement. These luxuries have also added to a global crisis of inactivity and chronic illness.
Regular physical activity helps ward off diseases that are now plaguing the planet, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, mental illness and Alzheimer’s disease.
Yet more than one in four adults around the world—1.4 billion people—are not active enough, according to a new study published in the Lancet. And countries that are economically more advanced are also more inactive.
Beyond disease, the World Health Organisation warns that failing to increase physical activity will impact health systems, the environment, economic development, community wellbeing and quality of life.
To address this problem, members of the WHO met in 2009 to develop physical activity guidelines. Yet low activity levels have remained unchanged, according to the Lancet study.
Taking effective action, then, will need to be powerfully tackled at multiple levels, according to the WHO.
“Effective implementation will require bold leadership combined with cross-government and multisectoral partnerships at all levels to achieve a coordinated, whole-of-system response,” they declare.
The WHO has set a goal to bring global physical inactivity levels down by 10% before 2025 and 15% by 2030.
They say policy action on physical activity is intertwined with 13 sustainable development goals, ranging from healthy weight to environmental conservation and reduced fossil fuel consumption, academic achievement and equality to stronger communities and sustainable infrastructure.
Their recommendations include creating active societies by improving social norms and attitudes towards physical activity and creating active environments to enhance opportunities for people to move more.
As well as this, they recommend creating and promoting access to programs and opportunities across multiple settings, so individuals, families and communities can be active regardless of age or surroundings.
In support, active systems will be needed at government and policy levels to promote strong leadership and multisectoral partnerships that help mobilise resources and opportunities for physical activity.
The WHO recommends that all adults should do at least 150 minutes (two and half hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, or a combination of both.
This includes people over 65. The importance of mobility in older age cannot be underestimated—even in adults with limited movement or dementia, who might benefit from a personalised activity program.
Physical activity in over-65s can take many shapes and forms.
Leisure time activities could include walking, dancing, bowling, hiking or swimming. Transport needs provide opportunities to be active by walking or cycling to the local shops, for instance. Even household chores and gardening rate as physical activity.
Recommendations say that aerobic activity—to get the heart pumping—should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time.
In 2015, Helping Hand aged care centres implemented an innovative, 12-week exercise program. They wanted to see if it could improve cognitive and functional abilities in older adults with significant memory loss or dementia.
The Exercise Physiology in Aged Care Project, led by exercise physiologist Alison Penington, prescribes individually tailored activities to match the skill levels and personal preferences of residents.
Gaynor Parfitt, associate professor in exercise and sports psychology at the University of South Australia, has been evaluating the program and says, “we’ve really been very positively blown away by the impact that the exercise has had.”
Listening to staff interviews, Parfitt said one worker was laughing as she described finding a “stand-assist” resident – who could not stand or walk unassisted – standing up and walking in her room. “She said afterwards, it’s that sort of OMG, I never expected to see that happen.”
Initially, some were sceptical about doing exercise with this population, who are 86 years old on average and “severely declined”. But Parfitt says, “overwhelmingly it’s dispelled the idea that these people are just on one downward trajectory”.
Staff reported improvements in residents’ behaviour, socialisation, communication and alertness. Even language started coming back. Residents became more communicative and started using fuller sentences.
They started socialising and smiling more, as they did some exercises together like passing a medicine ball around.
Family members described being able to hold conversations, and the exercises gave them a point of conversation – or even something they could engage in with them. One man who visits his wife, for instance, started doing the exercises as well.
Because the activities improved their mobility, dressing residents became easier, and they became more independent in activities of daily living, like brushing their hair or teeth.
The exercise physiologists who ran the program prescribe physical activities that individuals find fun and can achieve within their own limits.
“One of the reasons that people tend to stop being active,” Parfitt says, “is because of the fear of falling.” It’s important that they feel safe, and individually targeted activities can overcome this limitation to being active.
Moving beyond aged care, Helping Hand is developing a walking trails program for community dwelling adults that can be adapted to different skill levels; for instance with different trail lengths and difficulties and places for people to sit down and catch their breath.
The key message is to get up and move a bit more than what people are doing.
And the capability of patients who are thought to be severely incapacitated is more than staff believed was possible. “So it’s now actually challenging them to spend more time encouraging them to walk,” Parfitt reports.
This environmental transformation reveals the ripple effects of the program. “It’s changed how people perceived how life can be,” says Parfitt, “and I think that’s quite marked.”