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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

People walk slower as they age, and new research explains why

According to new research, older people may walk more slowly than younger adults because it requires more energy.

It is general fact that our bodies naturally slow down as we age. Some possible factors include a slower metabolism, muscle mass loss, and a gradual decrease in activity level.

According to experts at the University of Colorado Boulder, older folks may walk slowly because it requires more energy than younger adults.

Scientists believe this new study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, could lead to new diagnostic techniques for disorders including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

In depth

Researchers recruited 84 healthy volunteers for this study, which included both young persons aged 18 to 35 and older adults aged 66 to 87. Participants were asked to reach for a goal on a screen while holding a robotic arm in their right hand. The robotic arm worked similarly to a computer mouse. Scientists discovered that elderly persons adjusted their motions at particular times to help conserve their more restricted levels of energy when compared to younger adults.

The task assigned to the participants involved using the robotic arm to move a cursor on a computer screen. Reaching a particular target on the screen was the aim. Participants who hit the target were rewarded with a “bing” sound. When participants knew they would hear the “bing,” researchers discovered that both younger and older persons reached the targets more quickly.

Scientists claim that older persons improved their reaction times and began their reach with the robotic arm an average of 17 milliseconds earlier than younger adults, who simply moved their arms faster. The reward circuitry is somewhat conserved with age, as evidenced by the fact that the older adults in the study still initiated their movements more quickly in response to rewards. Nonetheless, data from additional research indicates that reward sensitivity decreases with advancing years.

Age appears to have a greater impact on sensitivity to effort than sensitivity to reward, since the results show that while older persons were still as sensitive to rewards as young ones, they were also significantly more sensitive to the costs of their efforts.

Take away

Gaining additional insight into the reasons behind the slowing of movement in these different illnesses can assist discover effective interventions by revealing more information about the underlying causes. One benefit of movement as a biomarker is that it’s a non-invasive, readily available measurement. Therefore, monitoring a person’s motions in a lab or during their regular activities may eventually yield a useful biomarker of neurological health.

Future studies should try to establish a direct connection between the behavioural data and neurophysiological evidence in order to support the findings.

A more comprehensive methodological approach that makes use of longitudinal research and a variety of demographic samples may be able to clarify the extent to which these suggested mechanisms are universal across various ageing trajectories. It would also be essential to repeat the study with a bigger sample size and different circumstances.

By Parvathy Sukumaran

Parvathy Sukumaran is a Content Creator and Editor at JustCare Health. She is an Educator and a Language Lecturer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education and an M.A in English Literature. She is passionate about writing, archaeology, music and cooking.

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