William Blake did it dreamily, Sigmund Freud languidly, and Albert Einstein almost religiously.
Of all human activities, few are so readily credited with enhancing the power of the mind as going for a good walk.
However, those who assume that strolling along at a gentle pace is the hallmark of superior intellect should think again, scientists have said.
In fact, based on a new series of experiments, they now believe the slower a person’s tendency to walk, the less able their brain.
Researchers performed gait-speed analysis on hundreds of middle-aged people, comparing the results with a range of physical and psychological measures.
Doctors have long used walking speed to gain a quick and reliable insight into older people’s cognitive capability, as it is increasingly recognized that gait is associated with not only musculoskeletal mechanisms but also the central nervous system.
Until now, however, no one knew it could signify underlying brain health so much earlier in life.
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The correlation was so stark, however, that the US scientists now say walking tests could be used to provide an early indication of dementia.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study revealed an average difference of 16 IQ points between the slowest and the fastest walkers at the age of 45.