C. elegans maximum velocity correlates with healthspan and is maintained in worms with an insulin receptor mutation.
Ageing is marked by physical decline. Caenorhabditis elegans is a valuable model for identifying genetic regulatory mechanisms of ageing and longevity. Here we report a simple method to assess C. elegans' maximum physical ability based on the worms' maximum movement velocity. We show maximum velocity declines with age, correlates well with longevity, accurately reports movement ability and, if measured in mid-adulthood, is predictive of maximal lifespan. Contrary to recent findings, we observe that maximum velocity of worm with mutations in daf-2(e1370) insulin/IGF-1 signalling scales with lifespan. Because of increased odorant receptor expression, daf-2(e1370) mutants prefer food over exploration, causing previous on-food motility assays to underestimate movement ability and, thus, worm health. Finally, a disease-burden analysis of published data reveals that the daf-2(e1370) mutation improves quality of life, and therefore combines lifespan extension with various signs of an increased healthspan.