Why does walking speed decline with age? Personally we can name many people who start to slow down as the years mount up but as of today there are no notable studies that say AGE makes you SLOW. The correlation found in the age and speed studies also show a link between the body mass and speed and health and speed. As we age we may develop something that slows us down be it disease or injury, but, seeing the results of the studies also gives a key to avoiding the situations that are avoidable.
Weight: This is the top reason why anyone of any age has trouble walking. The studies show people that are overweight walk shorter distances then someone of a similar age and health. Studies also show that fit people who over eat slow down and that causes a vicious cycle because weight is gained so the person becomes less active. The solution to this one is obvious but not simple. Try to maintain a healthy weight and if weight is an issue try to safely increase the amount you walk.
Posture: Another vicious cycle, as you slouch, hunch, or favor an injury your muscles will develop incorrectly and over years and years your muscles will be so out of line that it is difficult to move normally causing more posture issues. This situation is correctable but may require seeking professional help to retrain your body. Yoga and keeping active can also help.
Muscle: It stands to reason that one needs muscle to walk, the better the muscles the better the ability to walk. As we age muscle does not deteriorate, however, ability to build or heal muscle does decline. This means it is more important to be careful and to stretch and rest muscles to prevent harm. An injury that you heal from with an Advil and a nights sleep at 30 now might now take a week to feel right again. In that week be careful to not fall into the over eating trap or allow the injury to weaken your posture.
There are things that do slow down with age such as metabolism and cell regrowth but this does not automatically mean we will walk more slowly. One interesting point in the studies is that people do not actually move slower, they take smaller steps, so they don’t get as far in the same time as they used to. This might be discouraging because it feels like you are not getting where you want to go but you are still going in the right direction.
The biggest reason people slow down with old age is because they stop trying and this can happen at 40 or 60 or 90. As the various issues of age creep up do not give yourself permission to put yourself in park. Be careful, know that your balance might not be as good or that a fall might be far worse but moving more carefully is far better then not moving at all. Take your time, smell the roses, but keep moving too.