An analysis of 9 studies with more than 34,000 participants aged 65 and older suggests that gait speed may be an indicator of health of an older person. Published in JAMA and highlighted in USA Today, the study’s authors, which include APTA member Jennifer Brach, PT, PhD, GCS, say that “gait speed, age, and sex may offer the clinician tools for assessing expected survival to contribute to tailoring goals of care in older adults.”

For this analysis, researchers pooled analysis of 9 studies (collected between 1986 and 2000), using individual data from 34,485 community-dwelling older adults aged 65 years or older with baseline gait speed data, and followed up for 6 to 21 years. Participants were an average age of 73.5 years and had an average gait speed of 0.92 m/s.

According to the results, gait speed was associated with survival in all studies. Survival increased across the full range of gait speeds, with significant increments per 0.1 m/s. At age 75, predicted 10-year survival across the range of gait speeds ranged from 19% to 87% in men and from 35% to 91% in women. Predicted survival based on age, sex, and gait speed was as accurate as predicted based on age, sex, use of mobility aids, and self-reported function or as age, sex, chronic conditions, smoking history, blood pressure, body mass index, and hospitalization.

For further testing, contact any of the offices of ECRC Physical Therapy for your evaluation. Videotaped gait analysis can also be performed.