person walking

Hurry up! It could be good for your brain

A new study out of Amsterdam shows that older people who walk slower are more likely to experience a decline in brain function, and may even have an increased risk of death. Importantly, the study also found that slow walking speed may be associated with memory loss and the onset of dementia. Here’s a summary of this new research, and our take on what it means.

What they found

The researchers studied three main populations from Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands. They followed the participants for up to 25 years (a long time!) and measured changes in brain health, memory, and walking speed. The scientists found that people who walked slower in earlier life were >30% more likely to experience cognitive decline in later life. The researchers even found that people who walked slower in early life were somewhat more likely to die during the study time period (mostly from brain diseases linked with cognitive decline).

Why it matters

Walking speed is easy to measure, and based on the results of this study, the measure may be useful for identifying older adults at risk for cognitive decline and dementia. For these at-risk people, it may be helpful to address the problem. For example, based on this study, participating in a weekly low-impact exercise program could increase walking speed and reduce the risk of cognitive decline in later years. What’s a good walking speed? Well, at least one study has shown that the magic number is faster than ~2 miles per hour.

Expert insight

People who exercise regularly are more likely to walk faster. Exercise has long been known to improve health and brain function in humans. Studies have shown that people who exercise more are healthier and live longer, while those who don’t exercise and are sedentary are less healthy and have worse memory. Bottom line? Try to get out there and be active! Your legs (and brain!) will thank you later.

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By Devin Wahl; Postdoctoral Fellow, CSU Department of Health and Exercise Science
Picture courtesy of