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The study, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, used data from nearly 50 years of testing on 904 participants born the same year in Dunedin, New Zealand. The research subjects were "tested, quizzed and measured their entire lives," most recently at age 45.
“Doctors know that slow walkers in their 70s and 80s tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” said senior author Terrie E. Moffitt. “But this study covered the period from the preschool years to midlife, and found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age.”
According to the data, tests the participants took at age 3 -- IQ, understanding language, frustration tolerance, motor skills and emotional control -- could predict who would be a slow walker at age 45.
MRI exams during the most recent assessment showed the brains of slow walkers had lower cortical thickness and less surface area, meaning they appeared older.
But it wasn’t just brains that looked older. When a panel of screeners were shown photos of the 45-year-olds, they thought the slow walkers looked older.