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    Physical Therapy Articles

    The Speed You Walk Means More Than You Think

    Our body’s most basic functions are measured through vital signs….. Can you name them? Quick. Ready….go!…. (Body Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiration Rate, and Blood Pressure)……. These are strong indicators of how your body….the machine that you own and operate each day…. is performing. In 1996 the American Pain Society instituted a campaign to make Pain the 5th vital sign and at that time this movement was widely supported by medical communities and more importantly by historically strong catalysts of change in this country…..pharmaceutical companies. The purpose of this post is to let you know about the 6th vital sign…. Gait Speed. i.e. How fast you walk.

    In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy shed light on this and referred to it as “a general indicator that can predict future events and reflect various underlying physiological processes.”

    When you start to go down the rabbit hole with this metric you can begin to predict things like risk of falls, hospitalization rates, and discharge statuses from skilled nursing facilities.

    So how is this measured?

    With a test. No different than slapping a blood pressure cuff on your arm or that dude at Starbucks gunning your forehead temp.

    A 20 meter (65.6 feet) straight path is utilized for the test. The true test is only 10 meters, but the full test includes a 5 meter “ramp up” and 5 meter “deceleration” zone. You, the patient, are cued to walk at a comfortable speed and the timer starts when you first lower extremity enters and exits the 10 meter zone.

    It is crucial to analyze and interpret the physiological things that keep your motor running. Your heart. Your lungs. But on another level is us…Physical Therapists are trained and further driven on caring about HOW you function. Not only getting from point A to point B but HOW you get there. Can you get out of a chair without using your hands? Can you go up and down your stairs without pulling yourself with the railing and putting both feet on each step? Can you maneuver around your home without grabbing onto walls and furniture? PTs can get you walking faster in your 70s, 80s, and 90s……

    If you would like to get tested or have any questions, feel free to contact us at Chesapeake Bay Aquatic & Physical Therapy 410-315 9080.