Health Team

Study: Walking speed is related to life expectancy

Posted January 4, 2011 5:23 p.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2011 6:25 p.m. EST

A new study shows that walking speed may be a good clue for life expectancy.

“Your walking speed is a very simple reflection of how well many of your body systems are doing,” said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a medical doctor and professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Researchers evaluated data from almost 35,000 people aged 65 years and older in one of the largest ongoing aging studies worldwide.

Along with walking speed, they also looked at other health factors in participants, following them for up to 20 years.

"In every population, no matter how old they were, what sex they were, what kind of health conditions they had, there was a strong relationship between walking speed and survival,” Studenski said.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It provides tables and figures estimating probability of survival over the next 10 years and the average years left to live.

”This kind of information might be useful and valuable to the health care system, to doctors, families and patients in giving them a sense of their own vitality and longevity,” Studenski said.

Researchers say it's not just about walking faster, it's about establishing a safe and efficient walking speed based on how a person's body is working.