Intended for healthcare professionals


Slow walking speed in elderly people

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 11 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4236
  1. Rowan H Harwood, consultant geriatrician1,
  2. Simon P Conroy, geriatrician2
  1. 1Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH
  2. 2University of Leicester School of Medicine, Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester LE2 7LX
  1. rowan.harwood{at}; spc3{at}

    Is associated with vascular mortality, but may also predict future frailty

    People who walk faster are less likely to die than slow walkers, especially from vascular disease. In the linked prospective cohort study (doi:10.1136/bmj.b4460), Dumurgier and colleagues show that this is true for walking speed measured over 6 m in 3208 relatively fit older people, over five years of follow-up.1

    Walking speed is determined by physical features such as age, sex, and height, by the presence or absence of diseases, and by physical fitness.

    Evidence that exercise is beneficial for health goes back over 50 years, and includes activity during sport and work as well as fitness training. Benefits are primarily in mortality and morbidity from vascular disease, and are seen in middle aged and older people, and those with and without established cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, or obesity.2 3

    Diseases that slow down walking include musculoskeletal, cardiac, respiratory, neurological, and psychiatric disorders. Some of these are associated with excess mortality from vascular disease by virtue of being vascular …

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