Gait Speed Predicts Death!
This study analyzed data from 7 other studies that looked at the baseline gait speed of over 27000 community-dwelling seniors (not in nursing homes or other institutions) and followed up on their disability and mortality within 3 years.
Perhaps not surprisingly, seniors with a faster baseline gait had lower rates of disability in activities such as bathing or dressing self.
The rapid progression of disability was consistent irrespective of age, gender, race, BMI, and chronic medical conditions.
For a 70-year-old man, the difference between walking 3 mi/hr (4.8km/hr) and 3.5 mi/hr (5.6 km/hr) was four years of life on average and for a woman it was six years of added life.
Basically the higher the walking speed, the longer a person is expected to live, with better cognitive functioning and with greater independence.
One could argue that walking speed is as relevant as blood pressure as an indicator of overall health, but is rarely measured by doctors.
I regularly assess comfortable gait speed of my patients on the treadmill and I aim for 3.2mi/hr-3.5mi/hr (5km/hr-5.5km/hr). Less than 3 mi/hr is not so good!
It’s important to note that this is all just statistics based on averages. What is not being proposed is that if you currently walk slowly, artificially speeding up ones gait will not necessarily result in less disability, less dementia and a longer life …but it certainly will do no harm.
Reference: Perera S et al Gait Speed Predicts Incident Disability: A Pooled Analysis. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Jan;71(1):63-71.
*Studenski S et al Gait speed and survival in older adults. JAMA. 2011 Jan 5;305(1):50-8.
*Best JR et al An Evaluation of the Longitudinal, Bidirectional Associations Between Gait Speed and Cognition in Older Women and Men. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Dec;71(12):1616-1623. Epub 2016 Apr 10.