Slower Walking Speed and Poorer Brain Function in Older Adults with HIV
Does physical function correlate with cognitive (i.e. brain) activity? In an effort to answer this question, a study was done at a NYC medical center with 162 older adults with HIV. They measured the time it took to walk at a regular pace. In addition, a standard brain function test with various measurements was administered to all the participants.
Over 66% of the participants had walking speeds slower than 3 feet per second, which is indicative of increased risk for poor health outcomes. On the brain test, 35% had a low score, indicating possible reduced brain function. Those that had faster walking speeds had a statistically better score on the overall cognitive function test. This relationship was also seen when assessing specific cognitive measures, such as for executive function, which measures the ability for planning something and following through with it to completion. This relationship was true even when adjustments were made for any differences in age, sex, race or other factors that may have varied between the two groups.
There are some limitations when interpreting the results of this study. Although carefully done, it represented only what happened at one point in time, so it will need to be rechecked over a longer period of time. Also, the actual number of participants was rather small, and this needs to be increased. Finally, a key question is whether an increase in exercise level will result in a faster walking speed and result with an improvement in cognitive function. While waiting for confirmation there are a number of studies that already show that more exercise can be beneficial to the health of older adults with HIV.
Derry, H. M., et al. (2020). “Gait Speed Is Associated with Cognitive Function among Older Adults with HIV.” J Aging Health: 898264320943330.