When you’re walking and you hear a catchy song, does the music encourage you to step up the pace so that you’re moving in time to the beat? If so, that’s good! Walking speed reveals a lot about your overall health and energy and is a good predictor of how well and how long you may live.
Walking ability is one of the many changes affected by aging. Your pace may drop and your steps become shorter and less certain. These changes can lead to decreased mobility, a decline in quality of life, and increased risk of falls and serious injury. But don’t accept a change in walking ability as part of normal aging!
Take steps to avoid or minimize mobility problems
Lace up those shoes and turn on the tunes! Research shows that walking to a steady beat or music helps improve walking speed, stride length, walk rhythm and symmetry. These encouraging results are supported by other studies about the benefits of music, particularly for people who have had a stroke.
How fast should you be able to walk?
Older adults should be able to manage most day to day activities – including safely crossing a two-lane street – with a walking speed of about one metre per second, or about 10 seconds from one side of the street to the other. Learn more about the normal walking speeds for men and women at different ages and tips for how you can test your own walking speed.
Worried you might be falling behind? Try picking up the pace and lengthening your stride by matching your steps to a steady tempo. Choose music you like with a distinct and steady rhythm, making sure the volume still allows you to hear traffic and other noise around you. Then, go out and enjoy your walks even more knowing you are taking steps towards better health and longevity.
Do you value credible health information? The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal is a free website that gives you access to evidence-based information to help you age well and manage your health conditions.