How easy it is to walk a mile at a comfortable pace can indicate whether there is an increased risk of bone fractures in the next few years. Difficulty walking is associated with a generally increased risk of fractures and is a warning signal to check your bone health.
A new study involving experts from the University of Sydney (UNSW) examined whether people aged 45 and over who have difficulty walking are at increased risk of fractures within five years. The results are published in the journal “JAMA Network Open”.
Over 260,000 people examined
For the study, data from a total of 266,912 participants aged at least 45 years who took part in the so-called 45 and Up Study were evaluated.
They were asked about health problems and stated to what extent their ability to walk certain distances was limited. The possible answers were: not at all, a little or very much.
The survey showed that one in five participants suffered from some limitation in walking at the start of the study, the team reports.
Impact on fracture risk?
The researchers compared the effects on the risk of fractures in participants with varying degrees of limited ability to walk 1,000 meters (mildly and severely limited) and people without any limitations. Age, falls, previous fractures and weight were taken into account.
“We found that difficulty walking, even for short distances, appears to be closely linked to a higher risk of fractures over the following five years. “A few simple questions about how far someone can walk could give doctors an early warning signal to check bone health,” reports study author Professor Jacqueline Center in a press release.
According to the researchers, participants who had difficulty walking a distance of one kilometer had a significantly increased risk of suffering a fracture during the follow-up period.
For example, women who reported being severely limited in completing this route had a 60 percent higher risk of fracture than participants without limitations on the same route. In men, the risk is even increased by over 100 percent.
Many fractures are due to walking difficulties
In general, about 60 percent of fractures sustained were due to some degree of walking impairment, with results consistent across different fracture sites such as the hip, vertebral body, arms and legs, the researchers said.
By simply assessing walking difficulty over a distance of one kilometer, many more people at increased risk of fractures could be identified who could benefit from bone density measurement or preventive treatment, adds Professor Center.
“The walking ability question only takes a few seconds and could be a free, non-invasive way to determine whether someone needs to have their bones checked,” Center emphasizes.
“We hope these results will encourage doctors to consider walking ability as a warning sign of possible bone health problems. Patients who are unable to walk a full kilometer comfortably should ask their doctor to have their bones examined,” adds Dr. Bliuc added. (as)