Walking Speed: The Functional Vital Sign

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity

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Addie Middleton
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Stacy L. Fritz
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Michelle Lusardi
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Walking speed (WS) is a valid, reliable, and sensitive measure appropriate for assessing and monitoring functional status and overall health in a wide range of populations. These capabilities have led to its designation as the “sixth vital sign”. By synthesizing the available evidence on WS, this scholarly review article provides clinicians with a reference tool regarding this robust measure. Recommendations on testing procedures for assessing WS, including optimal distance, inclusion of acceleration and deceleration phases, instructions, and instrumentation are given. After assessing an individual’s WS, clinicians need to know what this value represents. Therefore, WS cut-off values and the corresponding predicted outcomes, as well as minimal detectable change values for specific populations and settings are provided.

Middleton and Fritz are with the Department of Exercise Science, Physical Therapy Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Lusardi is with the Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Science, College of Health Professions, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT. Address author correspondence to Addie Middleton at middletj@e-mail.sc.edu.

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