Walking speed, part 1: How fast should I walk to cross the road safely? Fast facts about walking speed

The Bottom Line

  1. Our walking speed changes as we age and is predictive of our life expectancy and changes that are likely to occur in other areas of functioning. 
  2. Men have faster speeds than women probably because they are taller.
  3. Walking at 1.14 metres/second means that you can cross the street safely in time before the light changes.

In this two-part series of blog posts on walking speed we look at what you need to know and how to improve your walking speed. In Part 1, we’ll look at some of the basics and a simple test you can do to determine your walking speed. In Part 2, we discuss how to improve your walking speed.

What advice do you have about walking as I get older?

Walking speed (gait speed) or mobility is necessary for most tasks that humans undertake. Slowing of walking speed is associated with aging in all persons. Walking speed has also been associated both with how long a person will live (survival) (1;2) and with changes that occur when older persons are having difficulty or become unable to do tasks (3;4). In research studies walking ability has been assessed by tests where persons are either asked to walk at their usual speed (sometimes called self-selected walking speed) OR fast walking speed where a person is instructed to walk as fast as they can safely.

How fast do I need to walk to cross the road safely?

To undertake various activities within the community that involve walking, the average distances required to walk vary from 200-600 metres (5;6). The task that usually concerns older persons most in relation to walking speed is how quickly they need to walk in order to cross a road safely. The critical speed cited for this task is 1.14 meters/second and has been broken down in the following way:

  1. Crossing a 2 lane road (4 metres/lane) in 10 seconds (5 seconds per lane),
  2. And 3 seconds to get up and down off either curb (1.5 seconds per curb).
  3. The critical speed is 8 metres/7 seconds = 1.14meters/second.

The speed we are able to walk decreases as we age. There are several reports that indicate some normal ranges for older persons. For example, general walking speeds for community activities are 1.2-1.4 metres/sec until 80 years and 1.0-1.8 metres/second until 90 years and older (4;7-10).

Older persons who have a walking speed of less than 1metre/second have reported ceasing involvement in any regular physical activity (11). Self- selected walking speed associated with frailty has been reported as less than 0.65 metres/second if you are short (i.e. = 159cm) and 0.75m/sec if you are taller (height >159cm) (12).

How does my walking speed compare to others of my age?

Below is a Table (8) of usual walking speeds given for women and men by different age groups.

GenderAge group Total number of persons in each study Average self-selected walking speed (metres/second)Range within which the average value might fall (metres/second) 
 Women 40-49 142 1.39 (1.34-1.41) 
  50-59 456 1.31 (1.22-1.41) 
  60-69 5013  1.24 (1.18-1.30)
  70-79 8591 1.13 (1.07-1.19) 
  80-99 2152 0.94 (0.85-1.03)
 Men 40-49 96 1.43  (1.35-1.51) 
  50-59 436  1.43  (1.38-1.49) 
  60-69 941 1.34 (1.26-1.41)
  70-79 3671 1.26 (1.21-1.32)
  80-99 1091 0.97 (0.83-1.10)

Assessing your own walking speed

You can assess your walking speed using the 10 metre walk test. You need a 20 metre path with 5 metres to get up to normal speed, 10 metres for measurement of your normal walking pace and 5 metres to slow down. You should measure how long it takes you to walk the 10 metre length or get someone else to time your walking speed over this distance. The figure below illustrates how to do this.Image showing 10 metre test


AUTHOR DETAILS

Julie Richardson

Julie Richardson is a Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. Her research interests include identifying persons at risk for functional decline and rehabilitation interventions it and maintaining health status in persons with chronic illness. Recent work has involved clinical trials examining complex rehabilitation interventions in primary care settings. There are no conflicts of interest.

References

  1. Studenski S, Perera S, Patel K, Rosano C, Faulkner K, Inzitari M, et al. Gait speed and survival in older adults. JAMA 2011 Jan 5;305(1):50-8.
  2. Hardy SE, Perera S, Roumani YF, Chandler JM, Studenski SA. Improvement in usual gait speed predicts better survival in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc 2007 Nov;55(11):1727-34.
  3. Abellan van KG, Rolland Y, Andrieu S, Bauer J, Beauchet O, Bonnefoy M, et al. Gait speed at usual pace as a predictor of adverse outcomes in community-dwelling older people an International Academy on Nutrition and Aging (IANA) Task Force. J Nutr Health Aging 2009 Dec;13(10):881-9.
  4. Bohannon RW. Comfortable and maximum walking speed of adults aged 20-79 years: reference values and determinants. Age Ageing 1997 Jan;26(1):15-9.
  5. Andrews AW, Chinworth SA, Bourassa M, Garvin M, Benton D, Tanner S. Update on distance and velocity requirements for community ambulation. J Geriatr Phys Ther 2010 Jul;33(3):128-34.
  6. Brown CJ, Bradberry C, Howze SG, Hickman L, Ray H, Peel C. Defining community ambulation from the perspective of the older adult. J Geriatr Phys Ther 2010 Apr;33(2):56-63.
  7. Waters RL, Lunsford BR, Perry J, Byrd R. Energy-speed relationship of walking: standard tables. J Orthop Res 1988;6(2):215-22.
  8. Bohannon RW, Williams AA. Normal walking speed: a descriptive meta-analysis. Physiotherapy 2011 Sep;97(3):182-9.
  9. Lusardi MM. Is walking speed a vital sign? Absolutely. Topics In Geriatric Rehabilitation 2012;28(2):67-76.
  10. Chui K hEKD. Meaningful changes in walking speed. Topics In Geriatric Rehabilitation 2012;28(2):97-103.
  11. Shimada H, Suzukawa M, Tiedemann A, Kobayashi K, Yoshida H, Suzuki T. Which neuromuscular or cognitive test is the optimal screening tool to predict falls in frail community-dwelling older people? Gerontology 2009;55(5):532-8.
  12. Bohannon RW. Comfortable and maximum walking speed of adults aged 20-79 years: reference values and determinants. Age Ageing 1997 Jan;26(1):15-9.

Introducing Betty!

Hi, my name is Betty Da Silva and I am a grade 11 co-op student from Port Credit Secondary School. I have had an incredible opportunity to be able to do my co-op placement at Clarkson Sports and Physiotherapy and to be able to work in an environment that is so welcoming and friendly, thanks to all of the staff.

I have always been interested in going into medicine, specifically nursing, and not only has this experience shown me more options that I have but it has also allowed me to gain and improve the skills I need for nursing such as communication, initiative, and being more observant.

I have also been lucky enough to see some of the stuff that is involved in running a small business. Being able to watch the health practitioners help the patients get the care they need and knowing that they feel pain relief from doing simple exercises, stretches, and treatments is very rewarding.   

Please Welcome Zachary Moll, Physiotherapy Resident!

We are pleased to announce the addition of the fantastic Zachary Moll, PT Resident!

Zack grew up in Oakville, attending French Immersion at Sunningdale PS, and then King’s Christian Collegiate. He attended McMaster for his undergrad in Kinesiology, and then Western University for his Masters in Physiotherapy.

Zachary is a good listener, with compassionate skills and a keen sense of humour. Besides running and cycling he has had experience with many competitive sports.

His career interests lean towards concussion management, vertigo, chronic pain and headache management. He has a personal understanding of concussion rehab as he has been a patient himself.

Please join us in welcoming Zachary to our team! He will be a great asset, and we expect him to be very busy.

The Pain of Working from Home

We have all modified our activities since the COVID-19 quarantine started back in March.

Our team has been looking after many patients who have injured themselves from poor home office ergonomics, unsupportive chairs, prolonged bad postures and changed exercise habits (mostly less exercise).

If you feel that you have new symptoms that are not recovering over a week or two, or if you have an old injury that has flared up, we would love to help you stop suffering.

We’re here to help you achieve your personal goals, and live your best life!

Guess What? We’re Reopening Our Doors on June 1!

Here’s some information on what to expect since you last saw us. As always, safety is our top priority!

VIRTUAL CARE Available!

Use our Jane booking system via our Book Online tab on the Homepage https://clarksonphysio.ca/ of the website. Or go directly to https://clarksonphysio.janeapp.com/ to book.

We can still be contacted by telephone as we check messages daily 905-855-8372.

Please keep up with your spatial distancing! Every day is one day closer to being back to normal.

CoVid-19 and Clinic Offerings

As many of you are aware, we had to make the difficult, but critical decision to close our doors, starting on Tuesday morning. We did this out of an abundance of caution, and based on what our colleges and associations were starting to recommend at that time.

We realize that this is having a profound impact on your pain, range of motion, stress levels and progress.

With that in mind, we are offering critical/urgent care for those in need!

You will need to email the clinic at clarksonphysio@gmail.com or leave a voicemail 905-855-8372. When we contact you our staff will screen you for any exposure to, or symptoms of the novel corona virus.

If you have travelled outside of Canada in the past few weeks, you should be quarantining for 14 days, and then practicing social distancing afterwards.

If you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, remember that this isn’t about your individual immunity. You will most likely survive this and recover quickly. Your elderly grandmother, or immunocompromised neighbour who has had cancer treatments might not!

We can do this together, and flatten the curve!

ALSO: Our practitioners are happy to email or call you in response to your questions and concerns

STAY TUNED FOR A VIRTUAL PHYSIOTHERAPY SERVICE OFFERING NEXT WEEK!

Here is something to distract you from the news:

Chiro, Physio or Massage? Who Should I See?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions, both by new patients to the clinic, and by our repeat patients.

It can even be more confusing if you have seen your Family Doctor and they have recommended coming to see us for all three services.

Because this is very individualized, based on your preferences and symptoms, the best way to decide is to call and ask to speak with one of our Physiotherapists or Chiropractors. The Registered Massage Therapists are equally able to answer any questions, but are not as available, due to the nature of their treatments.

You are also welcome to drop by and have a few minutes in a private consultation with any of us!

Our mission is to help you get better, enjoy your life, live life’s adventure, regain/retain your independence, and to maximize your performance!

To that end, we will help you decide, based on your symptoms and concerns, which practitioner to start with. We can even help guide you to the person who has the skillset for your particular problems or goals.

And if we feel that you would benefit from seeing someone else, we will refer you to that practitioner, with your consent.

In general, if you have any numbness or tingling start with Physio or Chiro. If you have really tight muscles, and are stressed, start with Massage. The majority of our patients see two types of practitioners because they find the complementary treatments maximize their recovery.

We look forward to helping you!

There are other clinics, such as Pillars of Wellness in Burlington that can help you if you do not live locally.

Welcome to our newest Physiotherapist!

Michael Wadie is a welcome addition to our team as a Resident Physiotherapist .

He is looking to build a caseload of people with sports injuries.

Free 15 minute consultation is available to see what he can offer you.

Please drop by and say hello!