Slower Walking Speed May Predict Future Mobility Problems

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

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.

Until now, there has been no ideal way for healthcare providers to measure walking ability, 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 assessed ways to measure complex walking tasks 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 examined whether performance on complex walking tasks involving both physical and mental challenges predicted a higher risk for an inability to walk one-quarter mile (roughly four blocks). The researchers suspected that these complex walking tasks would 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 enrolled black and white adults in Pittsburgh and Memphis from 1997 to 1998. The participants were 70 to 79 years old when they entered the study, and they had no difficulty walking a quarter mile or climbing 10 steps without resting. Continue reading

Pedometers Allow Healthcare Practitioners to Track Physical Activity for Older Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Loss of mobility is one of the leading causes of a decreased quality of life, loss of independence, and even death for us all as we age. Since physical activity is the key to helping prevent mobility loss, it’s important to maintain a decent level of physical activity for as long as possible.

Researchers for a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society now suggest that we don’t know much about how the duration and intensity of physical activity affects the development of major mobility problems.

In their study, the researchers tracked the activity of 1,590 adults between the ages of 70 and 89. To measure the participants’ activity levels, they were asked to wear a pedometer, which is a research instrument that measures how many steps you take. Participants wore the devices for at least three days for 10 hours a day while going about their daily routines. None of the participants had major mobility problems at the start of the study. Continue reading