How is walking speed associated with survival in older adults?

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Higher measures of walking speed among older adults were associated with increased length of survival in a study of 34,485 people, average age 73, published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association."

Gait speed was calculated for each participant using distance in meters and time in seconds. The walk distance varied from 8 to 20 feet, and the average gait speed was 3 feet per second.
Gait speed was associated with differences in the probability of survival at all ages in both sexes but was especially informative after age 75 years, with a speed of 3.3 feet per second or higher consistently demonstrating survival that was longer than expected by age and sex alone.

Walking requires energy, movement control and support, and places demands on multiple organ systems. Slowing gait may reflect both damaged systems and a high energy cost of walking. It may well be that gait speed could be a simple indicator of the health of an older person.

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