Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Walking Faster Means Walking Better

      When it comes to walking most folks (survivors and therapists) focus on one thing: Distance walked. The distance you can walk is important. For instance you might need enough stamina to be able to get out of the car walk 50 yards to the supermarket, walk another couple hundred yards through the supermarket, and walk back another 50 yards to your car. That's 300 yards of walking. So its important to be able to nail the distance that you can walk.

But there is another element of walking that's at least as equally important as distance walked: The speed of walking.

Measuring distance walked is easy enough. You can measure out a certain distance across the floor. If you can walk further you can base distance on the number of times you can go around a track (in United States its usually 400 yards). Further than that and you can measure the distance walked using Google maps.

The standardized way of measuring the speed of walking is very simple. All you need is 20 meters in a straight line, and a stopwatch.

Perpendicular to the 10 meter line you mark off four lines: The starting line, 5 meters in, 15 meters in, and at the end of the 20 meters. (See diagram below)

There is a chair at the beginning and at the end of the 20 meters. The survivor gets out of their chair and walks the first 5 meters. The person who is timing (it can easily be the stroke survivor themselves) clicks the stopwatch when they get to the 5 meter line. The survivor then walks the intermediate 10 meters, and the stopwatch is clicked again at the end of that 10 meters. The survivor then decelerates during the last five meters.

There are a few other rules...
1. The survivor usually does two passes, and the two times are averaged.
2. The survivor is asked to walk at a "comfortable speed," not, for instance, as fast as they can. Just a safe and comfortable speed. This is called "self-selected speed."
3. The 10 meter walk test is done over an arc of time to see if speeds increase over that arc. For this reason it is important to make all the tests apples to apples. The survivor should be timed at the same time of day, wearing the same clothes, wearing the same shoes and AFO, same cane, across the same floor, etc. etc.

So what does your hard work tell you? A ton. For instance, walking speed can be used to determine the effectiveness of a particular rehabilitation treatment option. That is, walking speed can be used as a surrogate for quality of gait; the faster the walking, generally speaking, the higher the quality of gait. Higher walking speed is generally associated with less falls, and less fear of falling.

I've written a more detailed description of the 10-meter walk test here.

                                                  ©Stronger After Stroke Blog


Scott Gallagher said...

If complete recovery is the goal, one problem might be in the sheer numbers involved. I have no reason to think that my stroke was anything but whatever might be considered a normal stroke, but currently in measured distance I'm at 5,112 walking miles. I'm so close to recovered, I'd say 5,000 miles is what it took for me to fully walk normally again. I tried speed walking, but the problem I was having was that any time I tried to insert control or effectiveness into my program, whether it would be with walking or with the hand, it would drive the repetition numbers down and my recovery would stall. My strategy, then, became one of brute force: keep it simple and push those repetition numbers up. But even if I had effectively used speed walking, how effective could it be? Even if it took 3,000 miles off my total distance, that would still leave 2,000 miles left to cover. I only made it through by switching from an exercise-based program to a mind and motivation-strengthening program. For all but a very, very few the repetitions required for full stroke recovery may make it, although possible, simply unfeasible. Come to think of it, though, your post may have been intended for a less hardened recovery program. Thanks.

Peter G Levine said...

Thanks Scott. 5k miles? 5k? Yeah, you're and outlier. You've given me and idea for a post...may I use your words, with attribution as the beginning of a Q and A blog entry? Thanks again.

Scott Gallagher said...

Wow, sure, Peter, I couldn't be more honored!

Mike said...

Depends on the surface where one walk.In my community, roads are uneven, stony, and cracked.I walk differently there as i do when im in the track oval or rehab hospital where floors are real life, a patient cannot chose the surface of roads all the time.mastering every surface is the goal and it takes so much effort and time.

Blog Archive