Walk For Your Life

by DavalosMcCormack on August 11, 2009

What would you say if I told you that the way you walk can predict how long you will live? You’d probably think I was crazy, and while you might be right about me being crazy that does not make my statement any less true.

The way you walk can help predict your risk of dying.

Researchers say if an elderly person has difficulty walking, say they can’t walk very far or can only do so with a shuffling gait without being able to lift their feet, then that is a strong indicator they’re heading for trouble.

Full disclosure time; some of this research was done by Peggy Cawthon, PhD of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. Peggy and I both work for the same¬† hospital, albeit in very different arenas, and I don’t benefit financially from her research (more’s the pity!).

Anyway, Peggy and her crew found that the more frail a person is the greater the likelihood of an incident leading to their death. Now, while the study only looked at older people there are still important lessons here for everyone – but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Walking is a powerful indicator of muscle strength, stability and overall coordination. A lack of any of those three things puts you at increased risk of a fall. A lack of all three puts you at greatly increased risk.

Why is that important? Because falls in older people can be very serious, leading to broken hips, knees, ankles or other bones. That in turn results in a long stay in the hospital, a longer recovery at home and this can trigger a cascade of other issues such as a weakened immune system and depression. And if you are in poor health to begin with it is even harder to bounce back from this kind of multi-pronged attack on the body.

The end result is that you are at increased risk of dying simply because your body is not able to withstand opportunistic attacks, such as, say, a bout of the flu or pneumonia.

The key thing then is to avoid getting into that situation in the first place – and the best way to do that is be being more active. Right now.

The more active you are the stronger your bones are,  the healthier your lungs and heart are, the healthier your immune system is, the better able you are to bounce back from injury, from disease, from all manner of nastiness.

So, don’t sit around waiting for Peggy and her mates to come over and start studying you. Now Peggy is a lovely lady but you really don’t want to be on the business end of one of her studies. Better she kicks you out of her research projects because you are just too darn healthy to be part of it.

You’ll be delighted to be excluded from the club.

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