Walk fast, remember more as you age

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 30th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Forget about taking ginkgo biloba and doing crossword puzzles to keep your memory sharp. Make a mental note to pick up the pace when you’re walking and you might be able to better remember just where you left the keys.

A study of 2,400 people found that the risk of memory problems in slow-walking men and women was one-and-a-half times greater than fast walkers as they got older. Slow-walking was also linked with decreased brain volume and lower performance on various tests of memory, language and decision making. Power pacing wasn’t wasn’t the only indicator of a brawny brain — those with a stronger hand grip had 42 percent less stroke risk than those whose fingers were less firm.

Researchers think a slowdown in walking speed could be a sign of decline in a personal’s overall health. In the same vein, a weaker handshake could indicate less upper-body strength in general.

More research is needed to determine exactly why, but scientists agree now that preserving muscle strength into the twilight years is critical to maintaining mobility and the ability to perform basic daily functions, like taking out the trash and doing the dishes. We lose 30 percent of muscle strength between the ages of 50 and 70, but a regular weight-lifting routine has shown to swell strength, decrease muscular atrophy, bolster tendons and bones and even prevent falls and injuries. The harder the training, the better the results.

So don’t think that growing senior means slowing down — get to the gym! Or at least start by adding more movement to your day. Take a brisk walk every day, and better yet, buddy up. And when you do pick up some weight, lift enough so that you’re fatigued after eight to twelve repetitions. Staying strong into your senior years can help keep your mind and body strong.