Singapore—A study conducted over a decade ago concluded that Singaporeans are among the fastest walkers in the world, covering 19 metres in 10.55 seconds. A new study shows how this could actually help Singaporeans age more slowly, as well as be a good indicator of mental health.
In 2006, the Pace of Life study compared gait speed—how fast people walk—in 31 countries around the world, with Singaporeans emerging number one, followed by residents from Copenhagen (19 metres in 10.82 seconds), Madrid (19 metres in 10.89 seconds), Guangzhou (19 metres in 10.94 seconds) and Dublin (19 metres in 11.03 seconds). In 32nd place were residents of Blantyre, Malawi, who definitely walked at a more leisurely pace — 19 metres in 31.60 seconds.
Among all the countries in the study, the pace of life grew the most in Singapore from the previous decade, as it showed a 30 percent increase in how quickly Singaporeans walked.
The bad news back then: the study showed “that people in fast-moving cities are less likely to help others and have higher rates of coronary heart disease.”
Richard Wiseman, the author of the study, said, “This simple measurement provides a significant insight into the physical and social health of a city. The pace of life in our major cities is now much quicker than before. This increase in speed will affect more people than ever because for the first time in history the majority of the world’s population are now living in urban centres.”
However, a new study may just bring good news to fast-paced Singaporeans.
A New Zealand-based study published on October 11 in the journal of the American Medical Association entitled Association of Neurocognitive and Physical Function With Gait Speed in Midlife shows that how quickly a person walks is directly related to physical and cognitive decline. This means that how fast we walk is proof of how quickly, or slowly, our minds and bodies are ageing.
The study shows that people over 45 who walk at a slower pace have the tendency to experience biological ageing faster than those with higher gait speed.
Furthermore, they actually looked older than their peers who walk faster than they do and have brains that are smaller in volume and cortical thickness.
Also, the people who walk slower tended to have lower IQ scores when they were children.
The authors of the study, therefore, concluded that how quickly one walks in mid-life can show accelerated ageing, which has origins in someone’s childhood.
Additionally, how fast an individual walks can also be related to certain aspects of mental health. People who are going through depression have shorter strides and are slower walkers. According to psychiatrists Richard Sanders and Paulette Gilling’s article entitled Gait and its assessment in psychiatry, analyzing the gait of a person—the manner in which they walk, “may be the most important examination in psychiatry outside mental status”.
However, it’s true that how quickly or slowly a person walks can be influenced by his or her culture. Yet another study showed that when people walk in groups in the US, they go faster, while in Uganda, they get slower. This may be explained by how the US values individualism and competition, while Uganda embraces values that are more rooted in cooperation and community harmony./ TISG
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