News: One Step at a Time

A woman sashaying down the street may command the attention of passersby, but how much can you actually learn about a person from her walk? You might think, for example, that someone with a relaxed lope is an easygoing guy, and yet a recent study in Cognition finds that this assumption—like most things we intuit about personality from someone’s walk—is wrong. But that doesn’t mean that this basic human motion tells us nothing. If you know what to look for, gait can reveal important information about health and attraction.

Fertility

Men who watched videos of silhouetted women walking rated those at peak ovulation as significantly more attractive, researchers report in an October study. While they could not pinpoint exactly how the menstrual cycle affects movement, gait was a clearer clue to fertility than dance moves, which yielded less reliable results.

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Sexual Orientation

Students who observed the outlines of people walking were able to guess their sexual orientation at rates significantly higher than chance. The New York University researchers suggest that gender-atypical motion—hip sway in men and shoulder swagger in women—is the telltale sign.

Health

Losing the skip in your step could indicate future health complications. A group of recent studies found that certain changes in walking speed and style are strong predictors of cognitive decline and overall mortality. An unsteady pace, for example, was associated with impaired executive function.

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