If you are a golden-ager who can walk at a brisk pace for at least 400 metres, rejoice! Being able to complete the “400-metre test” is a sign of good physical health and is a positive predictor of a person’s cardiovascular and functional future.
Because they are so simple, walking tests are commonly used to assess exercise tolerance. Tests can either measure the distance travelled within a given time (e.g. six minutes) or a person’s ability to cover a long distance (e.g. 400 metres). Data can then be collected regarding exercise tolerance, physical fitness and cardiovascular response to exercise. Together, these factors are reliable predictors of mortality over the coming years.
Over the course of five years, American researchers followed over 3,000 subjects aged 70 to 79. Results show that individuals who were unable to complete the 400-metre test or who took longer than the set time to do so experienced health problems in the follow-up years of the study, including a higher risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease and mobility limitation.
As is the case for all individuals, the elderly have much to gain by staying active and maintaining their physical abilities. Mild or low-impact exercise, such as walking or swimming, is an excellent way to keep the heart and joints healthy.