Are Walking Gait and Memory Decline in Lockstep?

Are Walking Gait and Memory Decline in Lockstep?


Your walking speed could be related to that unsettling condition known as memory loss. You know, as in: “Now, why did I walk into this room?”

No joke: In a 2016 Mayo Clinic study of older adults, researchers found that changes in one’s walking gait—including stride length, cadence, speed, and arm swing—were associated with a decline in memory, thinking, and language skills.

Walking gait, which most of us are inclined to take for granted, is actually a complex cognitive task. So alterations in gait are something to note.

For most middle-aged athletes, this is an awareness to file away for the future. The study examined adults ages 70 to 89, although memory loss often begins in your fifth decade or earlier. The clinic’s report also pointed out that gait changes may not be easily detectable—researchers relied on computerized analysis. Nonetheless, lead researcher Dr. Rodolfo Savica, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, suggested that adults should seek medical advice if they, or someone else, observes changes such as smaller strides or balance problems.

Of course, the question still stands: Why did I walk into this room? And where are my keys? Can fitness forfend these puzzling dilemmas? We’ll address that in an upcoming post.