Risk factors for decline in gait speed during walking while talking in older adults

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Background & aims: Slow gait speed during Walking While Talking (walking while reciting alternate letters of the alphabet; WWT) is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and falls. The aim of this study was to examine longitudinal changes in WWT-speed and to identify risk factors that may modify the rate of change in WWT-speed. Methods: A total of 431 older participants (55.7% female; M Age=76.8 ± 6.4 years; mean follow up 2.1 ± 1.8 years) enrolled in the Central Control of Mobility in Aging study were examined. WWT-speed (cm/s) was measured with a computerized walkway. The following baseline measures were examined as risk factors: demographics [age, sex, education], medical illnesses [hypertension, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, history of stroke, Parkinson's disease, kidney disease, arthritis], cognitive functions [global cognition, executive function, processing speed], physical and sensory functions [unipedal stance time, gait speed during single task walking, visual acuity], psychological variables [depression, anxiety] and falls. Linear mixed effect models were used to examine 1) change in WWT-speed over time, and 2) risk factors associated with change in WWT-speed over time. Results: WWT-speed declined in an accelerating non-linear fashion over time after adjusting for baseline age, sex and education. The rate of decline in WWT-speed was modified by older age (b −0.16 95%CI −0.22, −0.09), poorer balance (b −1.73 95%CI −2.57, −0.90), and faster gait speed during single task walking (b −0.06 95%CI −0.08, −0.04). Significance: This study identified fixed and modifiable risk factors of faster decline in WWT-speed over time in community-residing older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-72
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Cognition
  • Cohort study
  • Divided attention
  • Mobility
  • Physical function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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