Clinician Article

Prognostic value of usual gait speed in well-functioning older people--results from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.

  • Cesari M
  • Kritchevsky SB
  • Penninx BW
  • Nicklas BJ
  • Simonsick EM
  • Newman AB, et al.
J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Oct;53(10):1675-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.53501.x. (Original)
PMID: 16181165
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  • Geriatrics
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists
    Relevance - 4/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Internal Medicine
    Relevance - 4/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7


OBJECTIVES: To define clinically relevant cutpoints for usual gait speed and to investigate their predictive value for health-related events in older persons.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.

PARTICIPANTS: Three thousand forty-seven well-functioning older persons (mean age 74.2).

MEASUREMENTS: Usual gait speed on a 6-m course was assessed at baseline. Participants were randomly divided into two groups to identify (Sample A; n=2,031) and then validate (Sample B; n=1,016) usual gait-speed cutpoints. Rates of persistent lower extremity limitation events (mean follow-up 4.9 years) were calculated according to gait speed in Sample A. A cutpoint (defining high- (< 1 m/s) and low risk (> or = 1 m/s) groups) was identified based on persistent lower extremity limitation events. The predictive value of the identified cutpoints for major health-related events (persistent severe lower extremity limitation, death, and hospitalization) was evaluated in Sample B using Cox regression analyses.

RESULTS: A graded response was seen between risk groups and health-related outcomes. Participants in the high-risk group had a higher risk of persistent lower extremity limitation (rate ratio (RR)=2.20, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.76-2.74), persistent severe lower extremity limitation (RR=2.29, 95% CI=1.63-3.20), death (RR=1.64, 95% CI=1.14-2.37), and hospitalization (RR=1.48, 95% CI=1.02-2.13) than those in the low-risk group.

CONCLUSION: Usual gait speed of less than 1 m/s identifies persons at high risk of health-related outcomes in well-functioning older people. Provision of a clinically meaningful cutpoint for usual gait speed may facilitate its use in clinical and research settings.

Clinical Comments


Interesting study that may eventually prove useful. No specific interventions or determination if gait speed is clincally more useful than other measures or indications of frailty.


The paper supports the use of the assessment of performance in older people beyond the traditional functional assessment. This is the future of geriatric assessment for early identification of risk of frailty.

Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists

I`m not sure what this adds to the ``get up and go`` test. I think we`re all aware that an elderly person`s standing and walking speed is related to the risk of falling and related to the overall health status of the person.

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