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Good walking speed is essential to a long, healthy life

Published: September 27, 2017

Recent studies have assessed walking speed and determined that an individual’s walking speed can be used to determine life expectancy. Walking speed has been associated with survival among older adults and is shown to reflect health and functional status. It is also an indicator that your doctor or therapist can assess as an indicator of well-being, particularly in those older than 75.

It is thought that walking speed is so important because walking requires energy and movement control. Walking places demands on multiple organ systems including the heart, lungs, circulatory, nervous and musculoskeletal systems. If walking speed decreases, this may reflect damage to one or more systems of the body due to increased effort required to walk.

It has been shown that people who maintain good walking speed have a better future health status, have less functional decline, are hospitalized less, are able to stay independent longer and live longer.

Walking speed is being used by health professionals more often as the “sixth vital sign” as well as assessing patients’ blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature and pain to determine proper health. And the good news is that walking speed is a vital sign that is modifiable.

Therapy can help improve walking speed by improving motor control, muscle performance and the condition of the musculoskeletal system. Therapy can also improve the ability to utilize the sensory system, improve endurance, and improve healthy activity habits.

The Lutheran SeniorLife therapy staff can help you improve your walking speed. Call (724) 452-3492 with questions, or to make an appointment. Insurance covers therapy services as appropriate and a doctor’s order is necessary.


Information from: Fritz, Stacy, PT, PhD and Lusardi, Michelle, PT, PhD “Walking Speed: The Sixth Vital Sign.”

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