Gait speed under varied challenges and cognitive decline in older persons: a prospective study

Age Ageing. 2009 Sep;38(5):509-14. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afp093. Epub 2009 Jun 23.


Objective: to examine whether usual gait speed, fast gait speed or speed while walking with a cognitive or neuromuscular challenge predicts evolving cognitive decline over 3 years.

Design: prospective study.

Setting: population-based sample of community-dwelling older persons.

Participants: 660 older participants (age > or = 65 years).

Measurements: usual gait speed, fastest gait speed, gait speed during 'walking-while-talking', depression, comorbidities, education, smoking and demographics were assessed at baseline. Cognition was evaluated at baseline and follow-up. A decline in MMSE score by > or = 3 points was considered as significant cognitive decline (SCD).

Results: adjusting for confounders, only fast speed was associated with cognitive performance at 3-year follow-up. One hundred thirty-five participants had SCD over 3 years. Participants in the lowest quartile of usual speed or walking-while-talking speed were more likely to develop SCD. Conversely, participants in the third and fourth quartiles of fast speed were more likely to develop SCD. J-test showed that the model including fast speed quartiles as a regressor was significantly more predictive of SCD than the models with usual speed or walking-while-talking speed quartiles.

Conclusion: measuring fast gait speed in older persons may assist in identifying those at high risk of cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Walking*