Walking speed – what is it, why should we worry about it, and how do we measure it?
First, let’s talk about mobility. Our ability to move freely and easily can be lost as we age. A loss of mobility can sometimes result in older adults lowering their physical activity levels, losing strength and balance, reducing their social activities, and even becoming obese. These results, in turn, can contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes as well as social isolation, which puts seniors at an increased risk of mental health issues. Retaining mobility is one of the key factors in being able to age in place in your own home and to avoid falls, as well as contributing to positive cognition and mental health outcomes.
Walking speed is one aspect of mobility. It is our usual walking pace when we’re performing day-to-day activities. The measure of walking speed is known to be a simple but important vital sign, like body temperature, heart rate or blood pressure. This speed naturally declines as we age, but a slow walking speed is a consistent risk factor for disability, cognitive impairment, institutionalization, falls, and death.
A walking test to measure your usual walking speed is easy to do. One example of a testing area includes a 20 metre long path (which gives you 5 metres to get up to your usual pace, 10 metres for the measurement of your normal pace, and another 5 metres to slow down). Measure the time it takes to walk the 10 metre length, divide 10 metres by the number of seconds it took, and this will determine your walking speed in metres/second. To compare your walking speed to the average for your age and sex, you can use the table available at Average Walking Speed: Pace, and Comparisons by Age and Sex (healthline.com)
Knowing how your walking speed compares to the average allows you to assess whether you need to make changes to improve your strength and mobility, which can help to improve walking speed and health outcomes.
If you have concerns about your mobility and how it may impact your ability to age in place, or if you would like to discuss your options for the future, Proactive Seniors is just a phone call away. You can reach us on 403 809 1971.
Cronkleton, E. What is the Average Walking Speed of an Adult? healthline.com. March 14, 2019.
Levinson, A., Richardson, J., Sztramko, R. McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. Walking Speed – Is It a New Vital Sign? Walking Speed – Is It a Vital Sign | McMaster Optimal Aging Portal
Middleton, A, Fritz, S, and Lusardi, M. Walking Speed: The Functional Vital Sign. The Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. May 2, 2014.