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Walk Your Way to Better Health Part 3

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Your walking speed and life expectancy

Walking 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 for zeroing in on life expectancy for older adults who still get around independently and for seniors older than 75. A slow walking speed is associated with increased fall risk and injury. Did you know that you need to walk at a speed of 3 miles per hour (mph) for at least 30 seconds so that you are able to cross the street before the traffic light changes?

Your 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 dependency, incontinence, mobility disability, cognitive decline, falls, hospitalization and all-cause mortality, while brisk walking has been linked to better health.

Your Gait Speed Predicts Survival

Walking requires sufficient energy to move, control your balance and to support your body in motion, this placing demands on your heart, lungs, as well as your nervous and circulatory systems, your muscles and bones. Your body needs all those systems to survive. A reduction in walking (gait )speed may reflect a change or damage to one or more of those body systems, leading to de-conditioning and a drop in physical activity which increases the risk for frailty and dependency.

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

Walking Recommendations

Research shows that walking at 3 miles per hour enhances survival. Recommendations encourage older adults to:

  • Walk continuously and

  • Accumulating 30 minutes of somewhat-hard walking. For example, two 15-minutes walk or three 10-minute walks daily.

Adding brisk walking can improve vitality and enhance functional health. Interval walking can combine 'somewhat-hard' with 'light intensity'. Interval walking has also been shown to be especially beneficial for cognitive health.

Getting help with mobility or balance issues

When you have problems with walking, difficulty getting up from a chair, have balance problems, have experienced a fall or near-fall, then you may benefit from receiving professional help from either a Licensed Physical Therapist or Certified Balance and Mobility Specialist to help you improve balance and o minimize your chances of falling and getting injured.

Our health and fitness professionals provide in-home private physical therapy and personal training aimed to improve gait, increase gait speed, improve balance and stability, joint strength and range of motion, cardiorespiratory endurance and so much more.

Walking strong allows you to travel or perform activities that bring joy and make you feel alive.

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