People who, at 45, walk more slowly may have their older brains and also look older, according to a study presented this Friday by the American University of Duke.
The school's research measured 19 factors in people of that age and concluded that faster walking is related to better results of brain functions.
"What is really surprising is that this occurs in people 45 years of age, not in geriatric patients who are usually evaluated with these measures," noted Line Rasmussen, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke
Rasmussen and other scientists analyzed the information of about 1,000 people from preschool until they turned 45 recently, says the report published to date in the Jama Network Open.
"Doctors know that people who walk more slowly in their seventies or eighties tend to die sooner than those who walk faster at those ages," said Terrie Moffitt, Duke's professor of psychology and social development at King's College London.
The remarkable thing about the study is that "he found that walking slowly is a sign of problems even decades before old age," added Moffitt, senior author of the research.
Thus, in the most recent evaluation of the participants – between April 2017 and April 2019 – the computerized brain tomography (MRI) tests showed that those who walk more slowly tend to have a lower brain volume.
This smaller volume means a thinner cerebral cortex, less brain surface and a higher incidence of small lesions associated with diseases of the cerebral vessels in "white matter", the tissue that actively affects the way the brain learns and functions.
"In short, their brains look somewhat older," the report noted.
Additionally, slower walkers looked older for a panel of eight evaluators who analyzed the "facial age" in photographs of each participant.
Although some of the differences in health and knowledge skills may be linked to lifestyle decisions, the study also suggests that there are signs "at an early age that can identify those who will walk slower" in adulthood.
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