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Walk fast, live long?

US researchers say your gait can predict your longevity -- a new study found that seniors with the fastest strides lived longer than their slower walking counterparts.



Published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study examined the walking speeds of some 35,000 seniors. For both women and men aged 75 or older, the fastest walkers enjoyed longer lives, with 87 percent of the fastest men living 10 more years in comparison to the slowest walking men. Ninety one percent of the fastest walking women lived 10 more years than their slower counterparts.

The researchers, however, aren't assuming that simply picking up your walking pace will increase your longevity, but that "your body selects a walking speed that is best for you based on the health of all your body systems," researcher Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Discovery News.

Still, a short, simple walking test could possibly be a useful aid for doctors when screening patients for overall health, suggested the researchers in a report published earlier this year in the same journal. That report also found a strong correlation between walking speed and expected survival rates for persons over 65.

Seth Landefeld, director of the University of California, San Francisco Mt. Zion Center on Aging, told Discovery News that measuring gait speed could be especially helpful in screening for cancer and heart disease.

Prior findings support the notion that lacing up your walking shoes is one of the best way seniors can stay fit and healthy. One study reveals that walking just 9.5 kilometers (six miles a week) may keep your brain sharper as you get older. Also a Harvard University study found that women who walked regularly at a brisk pace had an almost 40 percent lower risk of stroke.

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