While it might not seem significant in the moment, walking speed is important for overall health and physical fitness. “If someone substantially slows down when they are walking with someone else, that could negate some of the health benefits recognized if they walked alone at a faster pace,” Richards said in a news release

Some of the health benefits associated with gait speed include a reduced risk of falling, improved functional abilities, quicker recovery time, and a lower risk of mortality, according to professor of health and kinesiology Shirley Rietdyk, Ph.D. “Older adults who walk slower tend to have poorer health and lower functional status,” she adds. 

And no, slowing down is not an inevitable part of aging. With adequate exercise, like strength training, coordination training, and of course walking, adults can help maintain their gait speed.