View Full Version : Summary of the questionnaire RE: walking speed comparisons incouples

Wen-ling Chen
05-03-1998, 04:03 AM
Dear all:

A couple days ago, I posted a questionnaire with respect to the
comparisons of walking speed between men and women across age. I
have received some comments and 36 replies for now. I would like
to express my deepest gratitude to all who replied to me. SPECIAL
thanks to Kathleen Fasanella and people in the list servers which
Kathleen runs (for apparel industry and apparel manufacturers ),
as 23 of these 36 replies were sent from them. To me, it was
certainly a fantastic experience to conduct gait evaluation
through network, in such a distant way. The results are very
interesting. Here come the summary of the results and comments,
following the original post.


Dear netters:

Let me put some points to stir the discussion on the slower
walking pace of the elderly.

In a cross-sectional pilot study, we found that Caucasian
healthy women did not significantly slow down their walking pace
until very old (almost up to age 70 years, n=40); Caucasian men,
65 years (n=49); Asian men, 55 years (n=47); Asian women, 45 years
(n=80). The results might not be perfect owing to insufficient
sample size of Caucasian women subjects. If this trend is true,
will the explanations of elderly slowing become different?

Provided that "joint stiffness" mentioned earlier in this
list accounted for slower walking pace of the elderly, why do the
Asian, often reported with less incidence of gonarthrosis or
coxarthrosis than the Caucasian, slow down the walking path ealier
in their lives than the Caucasian? On the other hand, Asian people
often have significantly lower bone density.

Slowing down, from my point of view, is advantageous to
gonarthrosis prevention. I will be very grateful if anyone of you
are interested in replying to me about following questions:
(1) Are you Caucasian or Asian ?
(2) Do you walk faster than your wife/husband/partner? What
is your age and her/his age?
(3) If you are younger than 45 years, does your father walk
slower than your mother? How old are they?

It is perhaps the first large survey in this list. I will be
very happy to summarize all the replies and post it as soon as possible.

Please do take some time to answer it, because it may be very helpful
for disease prevention.

Thank you very much in advance!

Wen-ling Chen, M.S. P.T.
D.Phil student,
Oxford Orthopaedic Engineering Centre
University of Oxford, U.K.
Lecturer, Physical thereapy department
National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
email: spet0196@sable.ox.ac.uk


The results of the questionnaire mentioned above:

51 healthy, asymptomatic couples were collected from 36 replies
mentioned earlier, apart from people who suffer from some problems
which might change their walking patterns. The comparisons of walking
speed between the husband (or boy friend) and the wife (or girl friend)
are listed as the following:

% of couples % of couples % of couples
in which the in which the wife who walk with
Wife's age husband walks faster walks faster same speed
---------- -------------------- ----------------- -------------
15-24 (n=2) 50% 50%
25-34 (n=8) 75% 25%
35-44 (n=10) 50% 40%
45-54 (n=12) 41.7% 41.7% 16.7%
55-64 (n=10) 40% 50% 10%
65-74 (n=6) 16.7% 66.7% 16.7%
75-84 (n=3) 33.3% 66.7%

% of couples % of couples % of couples
in which the in which the wife who walk with
husband's age husband walks faster walks faster same speed
---------- -------------------- ----------------- -------------
15-24 (n=1) 100%
25-34 (n=6) 83.3% 16.7%
35-44 (n=7) 57.1% 28.6% 14.3%
45-54 (n=14) 42.9% 50% 7.1%
55-64 (n=13) 38.5% 38.5% 23.1%
65-74 (n=8) 25% 75% 16.7%
85-94 (n=2) 50% 50%

A trend whereby the husband (male) relatively slowed down their
walking speed with age was noted in this survey, grouping the
couples either by the wife's age or by the husband's age.

The comments to the original post

A quick comment:
Be careful in listing 70 as very old. Several articles and texts have
listed age groups by young old, old and old old. From personal
I am listing young old as perosns 65-74, old as 75-84 and old old as
people over 85. In several studies I have conducted, walking speed of
older adults (ages 65-97)varied more by fitness level than age except
the old old adults. In fact young people with similar activity patterns
showed very simialr gait speeds. I suspect that we will not find a
"aging" factor that fits all individuals. Several of my subjects who
in their 80's could actually jump over .3 and .5 meter steps. I'll grant

you that they may be more of an exception than a rule but it suggests
lifestyle and genetic dispostion toward health my contribute to the
gait patterns we are observing in labs around the world.

If you have data that supports "age" specific changes, I'd appreciate
seeing your results. I will be submitting my results later this summer
you are interested.

I'd like to see what your results are from the survey.


Mic Danicsak
Concordia University, St. Paul

How about some references for those comparisons of gait speed between
two ethnic groups. I think that you are bringing up a very interesting
topic for further discussion however I would like to know the "N" size
the referernce used to make those comparison assumptions.

Denise Gobert,M.Ed.,PT
Doctoral Candidate
University of Texas at Austin


Have you considered social conditioning? In certain communities ageing
is regarded with much more respect than in others. In the West youth
a "zest for life" is greatly overemphasized, to the point where the
are badly under-represented in the media. If you doubt this,
start looking at all the advertisements in magazines, newspapers,
television and billboards. I contend that the Anglo-Saxon community
is socially conditioned to regard ageing as something which must be
fought against, and this includes the avoidance of any appearance of
Hence the Anglo-Saxon elderly continue to walk quickly as they age.
(Apart from anything else walking quickly indicates that one is
actively occupied, with a busy schedule - thus preserving some
meaning to one's life with respect to others.)

On the other hand the appearance of being aged does not carry any
stigma in communities where the extended family structure still
exists. In fact, being elderly in such communities may still confer
considerable respect upon the aged person. Therefore I argue that in
Asian communities there is no conscious or subconscious drive against
an individual's real physical state, and they naturally slow down
upon ageing. Of course such individuals may still wish to remain
fit, as attested to by the widespread practice of Tai Chi by the
Chinese elderly (I hope I have the correct name for this "slow-motion"
aerobics). Such a slow motion public activity associated with the
would be intolerable in the West, as the western elderly would see it
leading to stigmatisation and typecasting.

If this argument is true, one should see the adoption of the western
attitude towards ageing, among Asian families where the traditional
way of life has been subsumed by a western lifestyle. Hence I would
expect to find that the elderly in the westernised group would remain
"quick-walkers" well into old age.

I doubt the existence of an anatomical factor in the effect you have

Mark W Swanepoel
School of Mechanical Engineering
University of the Witwatersrand


By dividing your sample between age 44 and 45 you put 13 year old
subjects in the same category as 44 year olds. However, it seems to me
that 45 year old people are much more like 44 year olds than they are
like 74 year old people. I think your data would be far more usefull if
the were divided into more homogenous groups. For example, you could
compare 13-18 year olds with 65-74 year olds. Or you could look at the
decade to decade changes. I realise that you may have a statistical
problem with low numbers in some groups but the overall pattern of how
gait changes cannot be properly evaluated by assuming that when a person

reaches age 45 they suddenly become old.

Thanks for listening

Ciao - Pete Stothart
School of Human Kinetics
University of Ottawa


the elderly have a reduced step length compared to the young (walking
velocity = step length x step frequency). A reduced step length lessens
rise and fall of the body's centre of mass, therefore reducing the
ground reaction force experienced upon heel contact. If the step length
reduced the propulsive impulse in the vertical direction will also be

The walking base tends to reduce (perpendicular distance between right
left heel) as walking velocity increases. This lessens the base of
or pushes the centre of mass closer to the edges of the base of support
which may result in a fall or instablity. This may be a reason why the
eldery choose to reduce velocity.



further to my original message.

By walking slower the elderly may be attempting to lessen the
of an unforeseen collision with an obstacle at foot level. The
of a lead foot collision are severe because the COM is in front of the
support or trail limb. Clearly, if they are unable to establish a stable

lead foot support they will fall.

I think that the elderly approach pattern to obstacles is less variable
a young group's approach strategy (e.g. toe distance to obstacle
for each step). I have found that an elderly group's variability values
foot clearance, foot angle and foot angular velocity for both the lead
trail foot are higher than a young group.

This may be a safety stategy to prevent a serious fall which can result
the toe hitting the step. The young appear to have greater "plasticity"
the strategies employed to avoid and accomodate obstacles. This may
their ability to adapt more readily to obstacle conditions or indicate a

reduced concern of tripping on the edge (therefore higher


Noel Lythgo


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