Video: Walking Speed and Memory

Your walk might hold clues to future cognitive functioning

How fast do you walk? A new study finds that slower walking later in life may be a sign that thinking problems are ahead.

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Ronan Factora, MD, a geriatrician at Cleveland Clinic Center for Geriatric Medicine, did not take part in the study, but says the association between walking speed and cognitive impairment has been long-standing.

“These earlier clues that gait problems are associated with cognitive impairment have been studied and recognized for a long time. This is probably one of the longest studies of data gathered at home where that association is actually firmed up,” Dr. Factora says.


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In this study, University of Portland researchers studied 93 people who were age 70 or older and who lived alone. Researchers gave them memory and thinking tests and monitored their walking speeds for three years.

Results showed that people with non-memory, mild cognitive impairment were nine times more likely to be slow walkers than moderate or fast walkers. Researchers say more studies are needed, but walking speed could be a predictor of future memory and thinking problems in the elderly.

Dr. Factora agrees, adding, “If you find that you’re walking slower or someone else tells you you’re walking a lot slower than usual, or you’ve been slowing down over the years, that’s something to tell your doctor. It may be a clue or an indicator that you really should look a little more deeply. Is there something going on with cognitive functioning?”

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Complete findings for this study are found in the journal Neurology.

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