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Addie Middleton, Stacy L. Fritz and Michelle Lusardi

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.

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Addie Middleton, George D. Fulk, Michael W. Beets, Troy M. Herter and Stacy L. Fritz

Daily ambulatory activity is associated with health and functional status in older adults; however, assessment requires multiple days of activity monitoring. The objective of this study was to determine the relative capabilities of self-selected walking speed (SSWS), maximal walking speed (MWS), and walking speed reserve (WSR) to provide insight into daily ambulatory activity (steps per day) in community-dwelling older adults. Sixty-seven older adults completed testing and activity monitoring (age 80.39 [6.73] years). SSWS (R 2 = .51), MWS (R 2 = .35), and WSR calculated as a ratio (R 2 = .06) were significant predictors of daily ambulatory activity in unadjusted linear regression. Cutpoints for participants achieving < 8,000 steps/day were identified for SSWS (≤ 0.97 m/s, 44.2% sensitivity, 95.7% specificity, 10.28 +LR, 0.58 −LR) and MWS (≤ 1.39 m/s, 60.5% sensitivity, 78.3% specificity, 2.79 +LR, 0.50 −LR). SSWS may be a feasible proxy for assessing and monitoring daily ambulatory activity in older adults.