Slower Walking Speed May Predict Future Mobility Problems

Walking Speed; Being able to walk outside for several blocks at a leisurely pace plays an important role in living a vibrant, healthy life. Walking short distances allows you to get the physical activity you need, live independently, go shopping, access health care, and engage in a social life. Being able to walk at even a slow speed is essential to all these benefits but walking too slowly may foreshadow future problems that could prevent you from being fully mobile.

The healthcare providers

Until now, there has no ideal way for healthcare providers to measure walking ability; so since it involves more than just walking speed. It also is about how you deal with your environment (such as uneven pavement) and demands on your attention (such as traffic, other pedestrians, and street crossings). In a new study, researchers assess ways to measure complex walking tasks; so to learn more about early, subtle changes in walking. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In their study, the researchers examine whether performance on complex walking tasks involving both physical and mental challenges predict a higher risk for an inability to walk one quarter mile (roughly four blocks). The researchers suspect that these complex walking tasks be more strongly tied to the risk for mobility problems than simple walking.

The researchers studied information from the Health Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study; which enroll black and white adults in Pittsburgh and Memphis from 1997 to 1998. The participants were 70 to 79 years old; so when they enter the study, and they had no difficulty walking a quarter mile or climbing 10 steps without resting.

Walking speed ability

In the study, participants walk on several different paths; also were give several different challenges to measure their walking speed; also their ability to cope with mental and physical tasks at the same time. Researchers then follow up with participants every six months to see if they had any difficulty walking one-quarter mile due to a health or physical problem.

Participants report any mobility problems or disabilities every year at in-person visits. By the end of the eight-year follow-up; so more than half of the participants had develop mobility disability; hence meaning they were unable to walk one-quarter mile. Almost 40% had develop chronic mobility disability that last at least two years. Participants who report having mobility disability were more likely to be female; so they have diabetes, be obese, have knee pain, and experience breathing difficulty. They also had more symptoms of depression.

The researchers conclude that slow walking speed under both usual-pace; also complex conditions was associate with greater risk for developing mobility disability over the next eight years. They also conclude that measuring your simple walking speed in the healthcare provider’s; so office may be enough for your provider to learn whether you might be at risk for future mobility problems.