The reason why people walk more slowly as they age is explained by new study.

The reason why people walk more slowly as they age is explained by new study.

It is well known that as we age, our bodies naturally get slower in moving. A slower metabolism, loss of muscular mass, and a gradual decrease in activity level are a few possible causes. According to University of Colorado Boulder experts, older persons may move more slowly than younger adults because it takes them more energy to move. Researchers think that this new study, which was just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, may contribute to the development of novel diagnostic instruments for conditions including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. 84 healthy individuals were gathered for the study by the researchers, comprising older adults (66–87 years old) and younger adults (18–35 years old).

Participants in the study were required to use their right hand to grasp a robotic arm while reaching for a target on a screen. The robotic arm functioned like a mouse on a computer. Scientists discovered that, in contrast to younger adults, older adults altered their movements at specific moments to help conserve their more limited levels of energy by examining the patterns of how research participants conducted their reaches. Alaa A. Ahmed, PhD, professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder and senior author of this study, told MNT that as we age, our muscle cells may become less effective at converting energy into muscle force and eventually movement.

We may also become less effective in our movement patterns as a means of making up for our diminished strength. Therefore, in order to complete the same tasks, we must use more muscles, which uses more energy. Since the body releases less dopamine as we age, Ahmed and her team were also interested in investigating potential effects of aging on the brain’s “reward circuitry.” The task of moving a cursor on a computer screen with the robotic arm was given to the participants once more. Reaching a particular target on the screen was the aim. A “bing” sound was used to notify participants when they reached the target. Researchers discovered that when adults knew they would hear the “bing,” both young and elderly reached the goals more quickly.

Scientists claim that older persons improved their reaction times and began their reach with the robotic arm an average of 17 milliseconds sooner than younger adults, who simply moved their arms faster. Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, expressed his agreement with the study’s recommendation to exercise as we age, even if it requires more energy to accomplish the same activity as when we were younger. “As a neurologist, I always tell my elderly patients, ‘If you don’t use it, you will lose it!'” Segil went on. “I concur with the authors of this article that encouraging elderly patients to move has numerous health benefits.”

He continued, “To support the author’s claims, I would like to see a concomitant EEG (electroencephalogram) running on these study participants to determine if their brain activity does slow down or increase during these activities.” I also discussed this study with Ryan Glatt, CPT, NBC-HWC, senior brain health coach and director of the FitBrain Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California. He said, “I think more research on how an elderly brain adapts to the challenges of aging and moving would be fascinating to read and helpful to my aging patients.” According to Glatt, “(This) study on why older adults move slower offers an intriguing hypothesis linking slower movements to reward processing and energy conservation.”  But it’s important to understand the conceptual leap from observed behavior to underlying brain functions with caution. The findings are conjectural in the absence of concrete neurological data linking alterations in brain function brought on by aging to movement patterns.


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