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Walk This Way: The Faster You Walk, The Healthier You Are

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

The Mayo Clinic reports that walking can lower "bad" cholesterol, raise "good" cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes and can positively affect your health in a plethora of other ways. So while few can argue that walking is beneficial to your health, researchers from the University of Colorado found that one’s walking speed could mean the difference in successful surgery recovery in the elderly.

In a presentation Wednesday at the 2011 Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, the Colorado team unveiled that “older people who walk more slowly than their peers may be at greater risk for complications and disability following surgery,” according to a release on the study.

The speed at which elderly people walk is affected by their frailty -- a condition marked by muscle loss, fatigue and lack of physical resiliency. The more frail the person, the slower he or she will walk. And while frailty exists across the age spectrum, it’s most commonly found in the elderly.

Which leads physicians to consider frailty and walking speed when performing surgery on an elder person.

"This approach may lead to a more individualized way of deciding who should undergo surgery. We are designing tests to get away from chronologic age, and instead are now focusing on physiologic age," said study co-author Dr. Thomas Robinson, an associate professor of surgery, in a American College of Surgeons (ACS) news release.

The stress of an operation may lead to serious complications in frail individuals, but “could be avoided by assessing walking speed in a simple test before surgery,” according to the researchers.

“Researchers followed 195 patients aged 65 and older having heart or colorectal surgery. Before surgery, the researchers gave the patients a short timed walking test. After completing the test, the patients were classified as fast (10 seconds or fewer), intermediate (between 11 and 14 seconds) or slow (15 seconds or more),” according to the release on the study.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.