Did you know that how fast you walk is a good predictor of your state of health? It’s true, walking speed (basically, the distance you can cover in a period of time) is a good indicator of how well you are aging. Studies show the slower you walk, the more future concerns you will have with blood pressure, cholesterol and body fat levels that correlate strongly with age related diseases.
Walking speeds predicts dependency, mortality and institutionalization in people over 70. The number of steps you take per minute determines how quickly you get where you are going. The average steps among adults are 117 steps per minute. As the years pass by, people actually shorten their step length, which dramatically increases the risk of falling, lengthening the time to cover the same distance.
While we can’t stop the years passing, we can slow down the aging of our bodies and regain lost strength, balance and speed. High intensity training is the principal key in “speeding up to slow down aging!” For many people, this might sound too hard or scary to try at “my age.” However, it could be accomplished simply by walking almost as fast as possible, followed by a slow recovery walk.
First, why do our bodies slow down through the years? The aging slow down is caused physiologically by the loss of a little muscle mass each year after 25. By 70, the total loss can be close to 30%. The loss of strength is directly tied to the loss of speed. Basically, a person can’t move fast without being strong.
When there is an absence of training and an inadequate diet, the key hormone levels of testosterone and growth hormone are lower. Both of these hormones help with recovery from physical work and support muscle strength and growth. Adding intensity will raise hormone levels, as well as train the fast muscle fibers which boost power and speed.
Here is an example of a high intensity workout for people over 50. After a warm up walk, speed walk as fast as possible for 10 seconds, followed by walking slowly for 60 seconds. Just repeat this cycle 7 more times. Perform this workout once a week without fail. It’s easy, portable and less than 15 minutes.
Additionally, focus on taking a little longer stride that can be accomplished by walking uphill or on a treadmill incline for a few minutes daily, slowly increasing your time. Remember, you need a longer step length, not more steps per minute.
Be sure to have a fitness assessment before embarking on your “speed journey” to ensure all is well and safe for you to work much harder for a short period of time. High intensity training will mean something different for each person with exercise choices ranging from stand ups/sit downs on a chair to speed sprinting on a track. Check with a professional to see the best place for you to start!