A decline in walking performance in older people due to a loss of muscle mass and strength
Walking performance, measured in terms of energy efficiency (how far one moves per calorie consumption) and walking speed often declines in individuals as they age. Decline in walking performance leads directly to a less active lifestyle. Gait speed has been recommended as a useful clinical indicator of wellbeing among older adults, shown to reflect overall health and functional status.
New research published in the Journal of Physiology, based on 9 cohort studies using individual data from 34,485 individuals aged 65 and over, with a baseline gait speed. The individuals were followed for up to 6 and 21 years. The researchers found that older individuals who walked at a slower pace and those who tired quickly did so because of a loss of muscle mass and strength in their legs. The findings suggest that a focus on building and maintaining muscles in the legs may be the most effective way to improve the walking performance and speed of older individuals.