Walking speed or gait speed is the 'sixth vital sign' and of significant importance to older adults because of its association with a heightened risk of mortality. Walking is especially useful in zeroing in on life expectancy for those who still live and get around independently and for those older than 75. In addition, a slow walking speed increases fall risk and risk of injury. Did you know that you need to walk at 3mph for at least 30 seconds so that you are able to cross the street before the traffic-light changes?
Gait Speed is a Clinical Marker
The speed at which you walk is a clinical marker of functional status, integrating health, disease, fitness and emotional state. Slower walking speeds are linked to frailty, functional dependence, mobility disability, cognitive decline, falls, hospitalization and all-cause mortality, while brisk walking has been linked to better health.
Gait Speed Predicts Survival
walking requires sufficient energy to move, control balance and support your body in motion, placing demands on your heart, lungs, as well as nervous and circulatory systems, muscles and bones. Your body needs all those systems to survive and a reduction in gait speed may reflect a change or damage to one or more body systems, leading to reconditioning and a drop in physical activity.
Best Walking Speed for Survival
Research point to health indicators of various walking speeds in adults 65 years and older:
speeds equal or less than 1.3 miles per hour suggest poor health and functional status
a speed of 1.8 miles per hour is the medical walking pace for adults 65 years and older
speeds of 2.2 mph and faster suggest healthier aging
Speeds of 2.7 mph and faster indicate 'exceptional' life expectancy
Research shows that walking at 3 miles per hour enhances survival. Recommendations encourage older adults to walk continuously, accumulating 30 minutes of somewhat-hard walking, for example two 15-minutes walks or three 10-minute walks daily. Adding more brisk walking can improve vitality and enhance functional health such interval walking that combines somewhat-hard with light intensity, Interval walking has also been shown to be especially beneficial for cognitive health.
Sample Walking Interval Progression
Brisk Walk 15 seconds | Recovery light intensity walk 30 seconds | repeat 4 times
Brisk Walk 15 seconds | Recovery light intensity walk 45 seconds | repeat 3 times
Brisk Walk 15 seconds | Recovery light intensity walk 60 seconds | repeat 3 times
Brisk Walk 20 seconds | Recovery light intensity walk 20 seconds | repeat 4 - 5 times
Brisk Walk 20 seconds | Recovery light intensity walk 30 seconds | repeat 3 - 4 times
Brisk Walk 20 seconds | Recovery light intensity walk 40 seconds | repeat 3 times
Need Professional Help
When you have problems with walking, difficulty getting up from a chair or your balance, have experienced a fall or near a fall, then you may benefit from receiving professional help to improve your functional health from either a qualified fitness professional or licensed physical therapist.
Our health and fitness professionals will be happy to provide in-home services to you to enhance your gait speed and overall health and wellness.
We appreciate your call or email and look forward to working with you.