I periodically report about new research on the best single predictor of longevity and lifespan. You don’t hear much about that science from the so-called “anti-aging experts”—who often don’t have a leg to stand on, so to speak!
I’m talking about walking patterns…technically known as “gait”.
Gait brings together a number of different functions, including muscle strength, nervous conduction, and coordination (vision, internal ear, and proprioception—your body’s ability to sense its position and movements in space).
All of this gets processed together in your brain. Meaning that a seemingly simple activity like taking a walk has significant impacts on both your body and your mind.
So it’s hardly surprising (except to the “anti-aging experts”) that an increasing amount of research shows that the better and faster you walk, the more likely you are to increase your lifespan.
Researchers have also discovered that gait impairment—specifically, stride-to-stride fluctuations in distance and time—is linked to neurodegeneration and cognitive issues. But until now, there hasn’t been any evidence about the impact gait may have on neurological diseases like dementia.
However, I recently found an exciting new study showing, for the first time, that how you walk can help doctors more easily and accurately identify your risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD), different types of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Let’s take a closer look…
Predicting cognitive decline with stunning accuracy
Researchers analyzed brain function and walking patterns in 500 men and women ages 60 years and older. Participants were given tests to determine if they were cognitively normal or had mild or significant cognitive impairment, PD, AD, Lewy body dementia, or frontotemporal dementia.
Each participant walked for eight meters, and then repeated that walk pattern another two times. They were able to set their own pace, but the average among all the participants was just under two minutes. The researchers looked at four gait characteristics: pace, posture control, rhythm, and variability.
At the end of the study, the researchers found strong evidence that variability in gait (lack of consistency in each step you take) is linked to cognitive impairment and muscle control.
And here’s the really amazing finding: The researchers discovered that large differences in stride-to-stride fluctuations identified Alzheimer’s with 70 percent accuracy!
For a long time, doctors have noted that poor memory and impaired executive function (like decision-making and setting priorities) are predictors of dementia. But these new findings indicate that motor performance (like walking patterns) can help detect and diagnose different cognitive conditions as well.
Simple strategies to fine-tune your walking pattern
There are steps you can take, so to speak, to improve your gait—along with your longevity and brain health. Here’s what I recommend:
Maintain good balance. This allows your brain to rapidly process and integrate information from your eyes, inner ears, and limbs to help keep you upright and on your feet.
One of the best ways to improve and maintain your balance is through yoga and exercises like sit-ups that strengthen your core.
Build muscle mass. Strong muscles help promote a healthy, brisk gait. You can support your muscles by upping your daily protein intake from sources like wild-caught fish, grass-fed and -finished meat, eggs, and full-fat, organic dairy. And the good news is, if you’re already following a healthy balanced diet, this will be easy to do!
As always, I suggest you aim to eat between 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight a day. (To calculate your optimal protein intake, simply divide your weight by 2.2 [since there are 2.2 kilograms in one pound].)
And, of course, regular, moderate walks—especially out in Nature, where the terrain is natural (not man-made and monotonous)—activates and engages a variety of muscle groups to help keep your muscles strong and healthy.
Supplement your diet. A healthy, balanced diet builds the strong bones and muscles you need for a healthy gait. But I also suggest adding two dietary supplements to your regimen.
Plenty of research shows that 400 mg of magnesium a day supports healthy bones and muscles. And it helps promote heart health, lowers your stress levels, regulates blood sugar, balances immunity, and prevents inflammation.
Research also shows that South African red bush (also known as rooibos or aspal) has been shown to improve gait in older men.2 Aspal can be found in dry, powdered extracts and dietary supplements. I recommend consuming at least 450 mg daily.
For additional natural approaches to extending both your “leg span” and your lifespan, I encourage you to check out my comprehensive online learning tool, my Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting ‘Old Age.’ To learn more, or to enroll today, click here or call 1-866-747-9421 and ask for order code EOV3X501.
1“Gait variability across neurodegenerative and cognitive disorders: Results from the Canadian Consortium of Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) and the Gait and Brain Study. “Alzheimers Dement. 2021 Feb 16.
2“Improvement of andropause symptoms by dandelion and rooibos extract complex CRS-10 in aging male.” Nutr Res Pract. 2012;6(6):505-512.