According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The traditional vital signs (temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing) measure physical functioning and are indicators of the presence or absence of disease or infirmity.
So, if vital signs aren’t indicators of health, what is? Recent studies out of McMaster University are showing that walking speed may be a good indicator. I tried out a few “health” questionnaires while working on this post and none asked about my vitals, the focus of the questionnaires was mobility.
Mobility is the ability to move freely and easily. Your mobility determines your ability to live independently, reducing your risk for falls and injuries (physical wellness). Being mobile means you can explore your community and socialize (social wellness), reducing your risk of isolation-related illnesses and cognitive decline (mental wellness).
So, if mobility is the determinant for health, walking speed is the calculator by which we measure that. Walking speed reflects health and functional status and is a factor in life expectancy calculations.
It’s not a race to see how fast you can go but a gauge of the everyday pace at which you do things. If you want to do the full 10-meter walk test you need 20 meters of level ground. The average sidewalk “tile” is 1.5 meters* long, meaning you need 6.5 for the test portion. A 4-meter walk test can be done at home with a total of 6 meters of space (this would be 4 sidewalk tiles).
Click the link below for a detailed how-to and see how you compare to the average for your age group. There is also a chart where you can note your progress over time.
Be healthy, be independent, and live long.
* Please note that some newer sidewalk tiles are only 1.2 meters, meaning you would need 17 for the 10-meter test or 5 for the 4-meter test.