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To Turkey Trot or Not?


Holiday mornings are often the start of a busy scheduled day filled with good food and better company. To begin the morning with a road race may not be a top priority, especially as a novice participant, but what if Thanksgiving tradition changed and an annual Turkey Trot was added to the morning?

Walking has numerous health benefits both physically and mentally, and research shows that walking, specifically walking speed, can be a predictor of a dementia diagnosis and also a trajectory for mortality.
According to a research article in the Journal of Gerontology “slow gait is common in dementia, but it remains unknown whether the slowing happens many years prior to dementia onset.” Therefore a study was completed over 9 years examining the relationship between slow baseline gait speed, change in gait speed, and the hazard of incident dementia. The study “showed that independently of baseline gait speed, those who experienced a steeper decline also had an increased dementia risk. These novel findings suggest that slower gait speed is not only concomitant to onset of dementia but present in the years preceding dementia diagnosis and may be helpful for the early identification of elderly people at risk of becoming demented.” The findings “highlight the importance of repeated gait measures in the health assessment of older adults. Gait speed is simple to measure in primary care settings and does not require special expertise or equipment. Our findings show that slow gait speed may help to identify persons at risk of dementia and underline the benefit of repeated measures in order to identify those with a steeper decline.” (Dumurgier, 2017)

Partaking in a yearly Turkey Trot will not only provide an annual objective timed measurement, it may also aid in the motivation to beat said time by training throughout the year, transpiring into an increase in regular walking for exercise to improve or maintain overall gait speed.

Another related article in the Journal of Gerontology studies the correlation between gait speed decline and increased mortality rate. To put it bluntly, “gait speed itself, especially when slower than 1.0 m/s, is a known risk factor for death.” The study showed “participants with a fast decline trajectory had 2 times the risk of all-cause mortality compared with those in the slow decline trajectory. Even among participants walking at a similar speed at baseline, higher mortality was observed among those with fast or moderate decline compared with those with slow decline in gait speed.” The findings of this study “suggest that the preservation of gait speed may be more beneficial if promoted earlier rather than later in older adulthood before decline takes hold. This is based on the hypothesis that older adults [who] had healthy walking speeds in their sixties in general tended to have little or no decline in gait speed through their seventies.” (White, 2013)

Participation in an annual road race, sooner rather than later in life, can help maintain a healthy gait speed, resulting in a longer life. With a focus on slowing the rate of a declining gait speed, a Turkey Trot can be an easy and accessible event to help keep a time record year to year.

As Thanksgiving approaches and the reflections of gratitude begin, health should be a priority on the list to enjoy many more holidays ahead. Start by signing up for that Turkey Trot!


Julien Dumurgier, Fanny Artaud, Célia Touraine, Olivier Rouaud, Béatrice Tavernier, Carole Dufouil, Archana Singh-Manoux, Christophe Tzourio, Alexis Elbaz, Gait Speed and Decline in Gait Speed as Predictors of Incident Dementia, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 72, Issue 5, 1 May 2017, Pages 655–661,

Daniel K. White, Tuhina Neogi, Michael C. Nevitt, Christine E. Peloquin, Yanyan Zhu, Robert M. Boudreau, Jane A. Cauley, Luigi Ferrucci, Tamara B. Harris, Susan M. Satterfield, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Elsa S. Strotmeyer, Yuqing Zhang, Trajectories of Gait Speed Predict Mortality in Well-Functioning Older Adults: The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 68, Issue 4, April 2013, Pages 456–464,

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  • health
  • walking

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