|Photo by will wilson.|
Physical therapists and other medical experts are proposing walking speed as another significant vital sign.
In 2009, Stacy Fritz & Michelle Lusardi published a white paper in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, arguing that doctors should start regularly assessing rate of walking in their patients. Research they cite shows that gait speed correlates closely with life expectancy. The authors explain that a person's walking speed requires that a number of mental and physical systems operate adequately:
"These include, but are not limited to, an individual's health status, motor control, muscle performance and musculoskeletal condition, sensory and perceptual function, endurance and habitual activity level, cognitive status, motivation and mental health, as well as the characteristics of the environment in which one walks."
In the brief video below, JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) provides an overview of a study published in 2011 that compiled data for walking speed and longevity for nearly 35,000 older adults.
For a summary (written for a lay audience) of the 2011 JAMA study see this article in Scientific American.