Dec. 15, 2011 -- Older men who walk at least 3 miles an hour need not fear the Reaper. They stay ahead of him and tend to outlive guys who move along at a slower pace, new research reveals.
In the study, published in the Christmas issue of the journal BMJ, Australian scientists attempted to nail down the Grim Reaper's walking speed. (The usually straitlaced journal loosens up this time of year with offbeat scientific papers like this one.)
While the Grim Reaper is a fictitious symbol of death, other studies have shown that how fast older people walk helps predict how long they may expect to live. Slower walking speeds in older age have been linked to a greater risk of death, while swifter strides have been associated with a longer life.
Older men and women who can pick up the pace are likely healthier and fitter than adults who move more slowly.
So the Concord Hospital research team in Sydney set out to predict the pace of the skeletal figure in the long black robe. By knowing this, they reasoned, they'll find out how fast men need to hoof it to stay out of the Reaper's grasp.
To do this, they looked at data from more than 1,700 healthy Australian men who were 70 or older. Roughly half of them were born in Australia, about 20% were Italian, and the rest came from other countries.
Each man was asked to walk at their usual pace for about 20 feet. They were clocked twice over this distance with their best time recorded.