WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Highlighting the importance of staying fit in old age, a French study has found that seniors who walk slowly are three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than are fast walkers.
The researchers measured the walking speed of the participants -- 3,208 men and women, ages 65 to 85 -- and collected medical and demographic information on them at the start of the study. Follow-up exams were performed at regular intervals over the next five years.
After adjusting for a number of baseline characteristic, the researchers found that seniors with the slowest walking speed were 44 percent more likely to die than the fastest walkers. The slowest walkers also had a three-fold higher risk of cardiovascular death.
The increased risk of cardiovascular death was found in both women and men, in younger as well as older seniors and in those with low or usual physical activity levels.
There was no link between walking speed and risk of death from cancer.
"These findings show that assessment of motor performances in older people using simple measures such as walking speed can be performed easily and that the role of fitness in preserving life and function in older age is important," the researchers wrote.
The study was published online Nov. 10 in BMJ.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about physical activity for seniors.