Ever wondered how long you were going to live? Watch how fast you walk. In an analysis of nine studies involving more than 34,000 people age 65 and older, faster walking speeds were associated with living longer, and the faster the walk, the more predicted years of remaining life increased. Walking speed turns out to be as accurate as blood pressure, smoking history and hospitalisation as an indicator of longevity. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatric physician at the University of Pittsburgh, whose analysis appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association says, “Walking is a reliable tool to measure well-being because it requires body support, timing and power, and places demands on the brain, spinal cord, muscles, joints, heart and lungs.” By age 80, gait speed is approximately 10% to 20% slower than in young adults. As the body naturally chooses a speed which is appropriate, addressing the reason for a slower gait can resolve underlying health issues which may compromise survival. Some older people adopt a penguin-like waddle. Waddling is often seen as simply part of growing older, but it is nothing of the sort. It is caused by one of three things : 1. Obesity : Look at someone who is morbidly obese and you notice that the legs are not in line with the rest of the body, due to stored fat. When walking the legs have to be spread to avoid painful rubbing together of the thighs. Try walking with cushions attached to your legs – a waddle is unavoidable. 2. Lack of exercise : Ann is a librarian in her mid-fifties. Recently she has developed a penguin-like waddle when she walks. The side to side movement is often indicative of weak muscles – the gluteus medius muscle in particular which keeps the pelvis level when standing on one leg. In fact how long you can stand on one leg with your eyes closed is an indicator of biological age. 3. Social cues : A belief that we are no longer a young man or woman can tap into modelled behaviours of older significant adults in our lives. Julia is a Tai Chi enthusiast and a full-time lawyer. On turning 50 for no apparent reason she began to sway slightly from side to side as she walked, although she was her normal graceful self when working through her Tai Chi movements. She was in fact subconsciously reproducing the gait of her mother who had been overweight since the menopause.
For most of our evolutionary history, humans have had continuous contact with the Earth and walked a great deal. Walking barefoot can boost the immune system. Research indicates that electrons from the Earth have antioxidant effects that can protect our body from inflammation and its many well-documented health consequences. Floorings and plastic soles separate us from the negative electrical potential on the Earth’s surface. ‘Grounding’ ourselves by aligning our bodies with the Earth’s electrical potential promotes health and protects us from electromagnetic pollution. Multiple studies have shown that grounding can improve blood viscosity, balance, sleep, stress reactions and inflammation. It is the ultimate antioxidant and anti-inflammatory treatment. Grounding or earthing is defined as placing one’s bare feet on the ground whether it be soil, grass, sand or concrete (especially when humid or wet). When you ground to the electron-enriched Earth, an improved balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system occurs. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle involving days facing a computer screen followed by evenings facing a TV screen exposes us to the risk of back and knee problems and weak ‘gluts’.
Finishing schools used to teach girls to walk with books balanced on their head to ingrain in them good posture and the right way of walking. The right way to walk is feet pointed straight ahead, without a slouch, and briskly.
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