Your Natural Walking Pattern, Gait Speed: How do You Measure Up?
Mark Mashburn, PT, OCS; Danna Weatherford, BS, LPTA
Legacy Therapy & Wellness
Walking is one of the most simple daily activities that also has a significant benefit to your health and longevity. Natural walking speed, or “Gait Speed” is being measured in more disease populations, and now before more specialized types of surgery. This is because Gait Speed is shown in current research to be associated with:
mortality among community dwelling individuals
life expectancy of those diagnosed with coronary heart disease
life expectancy/life quality of older adults with congestive heart failure
mortality of adults undergoing heart surgery, including aortic valve replacement
mortality of adults with kidney failure who are undergoing dialysis
Gait Speed, Gait Analysis and Dementia Risk, Cognitive Decline
Early identification of adults at risk for cognitive decline may facilitate the selection of those who benefit most from much needed preventive interventions. Current medical models predicting cognitive decline include neuropsychological and biological markers. A recent 2016 study indicates that measures of Gait are indicated to accuracy and specificity of the treatment models with cognitive decline. This study indicated that Gait Speed alone is not specific enough information. Further recommended Gait Analysis with objective dynamic gait measures be added to the clinical evaluation protocols of patients with suspected cognitive decline.
Gait Speed and Heart Valve Replacement
In a 2016 published study from Duke Clinical Research Institute with the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, 5 meter gait speed was studied in a cohort of over 8000 patients who underwent transcatheter aortic valve replacement. This study showed that the “slow walkers” had a 35% higher 30 day mortality risk than the those who had a “normal walking speed”. Each 0.2-meter per second of decrease in their gait speed corresponded to an 11% increase in 30-day mortality. The naturally slow walkers also had significantly longer hospital stays, and a lower probability of being discharged to home.
Gait, Walking Exercise and Kidney Health
Chronic kidney disease, or chronic renal failure, affects 31 million Americans according to the American Kidney Fund, 2015. In a cohort study of over 6000 patients with chronic kidney disease, those who walked for exercise were 33% less likely to die, and 21% less likely to need dialysis or a kidney transplant. In another study of dialysis patients, those with a faster gait speed had a decreased risk of mortality.
Your natural walking speed or “gait speed” is being included as a critical measure by more physicians, surgeons and physician specialists at leading medical research institutions – for a variety of serious medical conditions. So, here at Legacy Therapy and Wellness, our practice is busy helping you and area physicians to efficiently measure: gait pattern quality, natural gait speed, gait distance abilities, and abilities to meet community mobility challenges.
We offer professional high speed, low cost gait pattern quality screenings to identify the barriers to normal gait. We identify abnormalities with toes, feet, ankle knee, hip, and pelvis to spine function. This assists physicians in identifying deficits in gait quality, gait function, and natural gait speed. Gait abnormalities often go unrecognized, but can significantly hinder a person’s gait function, gait speed, energy level, and overall activity. Once identified, these barriers can efficiently be corrected to improve overall function, health, recreation and enjoyment, and longevity.