Walking speed is more than just a measure of how quickly one can move from point A to point B. It’s a subtle yet significant indicator of overall health and vitality, particularly as we age.

As we grow older, changes in gait and pace can signify potential health issues or serve as a reflection of one’s physical fitness level. Understanding the relationship between walking speed and age can offer valuable insights into an individual’s well-being. One analysis of walking speed shows that – down to the tenth of a meter per second – an older person’s pace, along with age and gender, can predict their life expectancy just as well as other health indicators.

 

Exercise physiologists play a crucial role in this connection through various tests. These might include a more intense treadmill test or the straightforward six-minute walk test. Walking speed tends to decline with age due to factors such as decreased muscle mass, reduced joint flexibility, and diminished cardiovascular function. However, this decline isn’t inevitable nor uniform.

By assessing walking speed, Exercise physiologists can gauge an individual’s functional capacity and potential health risks. By assessing walking speed Exercise Physiologists are able to design personalised exercise programs and interventions to improve overall health and fitness and quality of life. By understanding the nuances of walking speed across different age groups, exercise physiologists empower individuals to maintain independence, vitality, and longevity as they journey through life’s stages.

In some cases increasing walking speed may not be tolerable or possible, but that doesn’t mean there’s no benefit. Many other studies have also found that walking helps lower blood pressure, keep weight down and improve mood. Higher amounts of walking have also been linked to slower memory decline and reduced risk of some cancers.

Discuss whether a walk test may be beneficial to you with one of our friendly Exercise Physiologists.

 

Studenski S, Perera S, Patel K, et al. Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults. JAMA. 2011;305(1):50–58. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1923