Comfortable and maximum walking speed of adults aged 20-79 years: reference values and determinants

Age Ageing. 1997 Jan;26(1):15-9. doi: 10.1093/ageing/26.1.15.


Objectives: to establish reference values for both comfortable and maximum gait speed and to describe the reliability of the gait speed measures and the correlation of selected variables with them.

Design: descriptive and cross-sectional.

Methods: subjects were 230 healthy volunteers. Gait was timed over a 7.62 m expanse of floor. Actual and height normalized speed were determined. Lower extremity muscle strength was measured with a hand-held dynamometer.

Results: mean comfortable gait speed ranged from 127.2 cm/s for women in their seventies to 146.2 cm/s for men in their forties. Mean maximum gait speed ranged from 174.9 cm/s for women in their seventies to 253.3 cm/s for men in their twenties. Both gait speed measures were reliable (coefficients > or = 0.903) and correlated significantly with age (r > or = -0.210), height (r > or = 0.220) and the strengths of four measured lower extremity muscle actions (r = 0.190-0.500). The muscle action strengths most strongly correlated with gait speed were nondominant hip abduction (comfortable speed) and knee extension (maximum speed).

Conclusions: these normative values should give clinicians a reference against which patient performance can be compared in a variety of settings. Gait speed can be expected to be reduced in individuals of greater age and of lesser height and lower extremity muscle strength.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Walking / physiology*