Walking speed

Journal of the American Medical Association 2011

Walking speed interestingly is a good predictor of how long you will live.

Researchers measured how fast 34,000 adults older than 65 walked over a distance of 13 feet, or 4 metres. Their speeds measured between:

  • 1.3 to 4.6 feet per second.

They then measured how long these people lived, and came up with some interesting data. For example, of men at age 75,

  • 87 percent lived another ten years, if they could and did walk fast.
  • bur if they walked slowly, only 19 percent lived another ten years.
  • The figures for women are slightly higher, but really much the same.
  • Clearly it's important to be able to walk fast.
  • They found that walking speed was just as good a predictor of survival as smoking history, blood pressure, body mass index and hospitalisations.
  • A group of people enjoying a walk alongside a canal.

    Walking speed

    Walking speed is important obviously but research is needed to prove that moving even faster will increase your lifespan further.

    Mark out 13 feet (4 metres) with a tape measure and ask a friend to time how long it takes you to walk that distance; or estimate it yourself.

    Can you walk the 13 feet in about 3 seconds? Then there's a good chance you are going to live another ten years if you are over age 65.

    What's the point?

    If you have a condition that slows your walking, it's also going to shorten your lifespan.

    For example, if you have a short leg, there's a greater chance of you getting hip, back and knee arthritis. These will restrict your pace. Something as simple as a shoe lift from your chiropractor will add years to your life, and some zip into your walking speed.

    But don't wait until you have that hip arthritis; prevention is better than a cure. Lying on your back, pull your knee to your chest. Is it stiff and sore in the groin?

    But even if you have foot, knee or hip pain, getting them treated so that you can walk faster is going to add quality years to your life.

    More difficult would be conditions like Parkinsons. But even there, folk who regularly take omega 3 oil, or better still eat fatty fish, are less likely to get it and Alzheimers too.

    It's simple; salmon oil and fatty fish soup should regularly be on the menu.

    Take a stick

    I already use a stick when I go for a walk, because I know how difficult it is to persuade my 70-year old patients to use a walking stick. They'd rather fall and break a hip than admit they are getting older.

    Getting into training to increase your walking speed will have a profound affect on your life and well-being. Half an hour a day minimum. Gradually try to increase the speed and, even if you are age 75, you have an 80% chance of living another ten years. Walking benefits are sublime...


    If you can walk those 4 metres in 3 seconds, then you'd better make sure you are not dipping too frequently into savings. You're going to need them for perhaps ten years longer than expected.

    But, if you can't, then you have less concern about out-living your funds. Take a holiday overseas. Go and SKI; spend the kids' inheritance!

    An older woman walking.

    Obesity is one of the main causes of disability in the undercarriage; it causes knee, hip and foot arthritis.

    Hip arthritis

    Hip arthritis caught early is very manageable with chiropractic; missed and allowed to bloom it will certainly affect your walking speed and ultimately your longevity.

    Remember that a leg length inequality is one of the causes of hip arthritis; a simple insert in the shoe is the solution.

    As a chiropractor one is often faced with a difficult decision; when do you recommend a patient with hip arthritis goes for a total hip replacement. My criteria are as follows:

    1. Is it really no longer responding to chiropractic, physical therapy or an exercise regime?
    2. Is it regularly waking you at night?
    3. Are you having to take anti inflammatory medication on a regular basis?
    4. Are you no longer able to easily walk those four metres in three seconds?

    If the answer is yes on several counts, then in my book it's time.

    What's the downside? It involves a general medication and in the elderly there is significant risk of anaesthetic Alzheimers.

    Foot pain

    Foot pain can certainly slow your gait. Whether it's a heel spur, or plantar myofascitis or a fixated subtalar joint that was never corrected after an ankle sprain, and has now become arthritic, any pain in the lower extremity can make you miserable, and reduce your walking speed.

    Chiropractic has an important role to play in all these conditions.


    Chiropractic sometimes can achieve miraculous change but in the main it takes hard work on the part of the chiropractor to correct these conditions and so enable you to increase your walking speed.

    Early detection of hip dysplasia so that the patient can begin with daily strengthening exercises, or correction of a subtalar subluxation after an ankle sprain are bread and butter issues for the astute chiropractor.

    Physical Therapists providing a Chiropractic adjustment?

    Many insurance companies now only pay for physical therapists to provide a chiropractic adjustment; that's in the face of powerful research proving that inclusion of DCs to perform their own technique would save them a good deal of money. One has to conclude that political medicine has gone off on another tack to contain our profession.

    It's being successful with some doctors of chiropractic quitting. Others become involved in some dodgy practices, like demanding that patients sign up for a whole year of treatment in advance, in order to stay in business.

    In recessionary times, the going is tough when the insurance won't pay.

    Is the day approaching for a new Wilk versus the AMA and the insurance companies?

    The chiropractic profession has tried hard to stay on the moral high ground; those who stoop to unscrupulous practices need to be exposed and disciplined if we are not to stoop to the low blows that medicine has often resorted to contain and eliminate us.

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    Walking speed links

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