As we age, the speed at which we walk tends to slow down. I guess that would make sense. Or would it?
Given the speed at which we walk though is some sort of indicator of lifespan, one of a great many I’d say, people may therefore be wondering how to keep their walking speeds on the up. Seemingly it is quite possible, all it takes is a little running. Well, when I say a little, that means thirty minutes a day, three times a week.
Many of us probably would assume that this physical slowing is inevitable. And in past studies of aging walkers, physiologists have found that, almost invariably, their walking economy declines over time. That is, they begin using more energy with each step, which makes moving harder and more tiring. But researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., began to wonder whether this slow decay of older people’s physical ease really is inexorable or if it might be slowed or reversed by other types of exercise and, in particular, by running.
The world’s biggest food company, known for KitKat candy bars and Nespresso capsules, says it has identified how an enzyme in charge of regulating metabolism can be stimulated by a compound called C13, a potential first step in developing a way to mimic the fat-burning effect of exercise. The findings were published in the science journal Chemistry & Biology in July.
Walking, as simply a means to move from one point to another, is just walking. Walking, while taking in what is happening around us, is an experience. That’s my take away at least, from this article on the topic by Craig Mod:
There is an art and history to walking and walking well. “To walk for hours on a clear night is the largest experience we can have” writes Thomas Clark in his poem, In Praise of Walking. He was speaking of countryside walks beneath the stars. But a night walk in a city also brings with it its own great pleasures. Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust, “Cities have always offered anonymity, variety, and conjunction, qualities best basked in by walking.” Mysteries are presented to the walker – the floating sound of a guitar above, screen door murmurs, cats frozen, baths splashing, the far off buzz of a motorcycle. Mysteries sometimes answered, more often serving only as ballast for the flitting narratives of the walker mind.
If you’ve ever felt that your stomach is somehow trying to communicate with you, that may be exactly what is happening. It seems our digestive system is host to our enteric nervous system (ENS), and its function is not solely restricted to matters of digestion:
Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut “thinking”, the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. “A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.
Might it be possible to slow down ageing by way of a… live-in placebo of sorts? I heard of this story sometime ago, but in 1981 eight men, aged in their 70s, spent five days living in surrounds converted to convey the impression that it was 1959.
At the end of their stay, the men were tested again. On several measures, they outperformed a control group that came earlier to the monastery but didn’t imagine themselves back into the skin of their younger selves, though they were encouraged to reminisce. They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller – just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.
In addition to living twenty years in the past, it seems giving up soft drink may also be a good idea, when it comes to slowing down ageing.
Wilson also points out that there’s a huge difference between asking someone to strike a running pose, and asking someone to run. “The only thing your postural systems cares about is staying upright, maintaining balance,” he says. “Running is about dynamic balance; maintaining balance as your mass moves. This is why we run in a contralateral pose – that’s how you balance out all the various forces and preserve your upright posture. Posing as if running is static balance.” In other words, the body asked to pose and asked to run is acting on two very different requests.
But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.
Sirois found that people prone to procrastination had lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of stress. Further analysis revealed that procrastination might increase levels of stress – particularly among people low in self-compassion.
My best ideas come to me while I’m on foot. Or so I like to think. Whether anyone agrees is another matter. It seems though there a clear link between walking and the thought process, that makes walking a two-for-the-price-of-one sort of activity, exercise plus clear thoughts…
When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs – including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.