Based on a series of experiments, scientists now believe that the slower a person walks, the worse their brain function.
According to The Daily Telegraph on October 11, of all human activities, few are thought to enhance the mind like walking.
Researchers analyzed the gait of hundreds of middle-aged people and compared the results with a range of physiological and psychological criteria. Pace has long been used by doctors to gain a quick and reliable understanding of older people’s cognitive abilities, as it is increasingly recognized that gait is not only related to musculoskeletal mechanisms, but also to the central nervous system.
Until now, however, no one knew that walking speed might predict the underlying health of the brain early in life. Us scientists now believe the link is so strong that walking tests could provide early signs of dementia.
The study, published in the journal of the American medical association, found that at age 45, there was an average of 16 IQ differences between the slowest and fastest walkers. This reflected both the participants’ natural walking speed and their speed when they were asked to walk as fast as possible. People who walked slowly also scored lower in both physical activities, such as hand grip strength and tests of visual motor coordination, as well as signs of poor health, the report said.
In the study, researchers demonstrated that people who walked slower “age faster,” and that their lungs, teeth and immune systems tended to be worse than those who walked faster.
The team at duke university in north Carolina said genetic factors might explain the link between walking speed, brain power and physical health, or that better brain health might promote physical activity to increase walking speed.
Dr Ryan rasmussen, who led the study, said: “what is really striking is that this is happening at 45, not in older patients.” The 904 New Zealand men and women tested at the age of 45 were followed from the age of three, each of whom underwent multiple tests over many years.
Long-term data collection led the researchers to find that babies with lower iqs, language skills, resilience, motor skills and emotional control tended to walk slower in middle age.
Mri scans taken at the final assessment at age 45 showed that people who walked slowly had lower total brain volume, lower average cortical thickness, smaller brain surface area, and a higher incidence of leukoplumes.
“In short, their brains seem to be aging,” the researchers said.