David Dansereau, MSPT for Know-Stroke.org
According to a recent study published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association (ASA), and summarized on September 26,1019 in Stroke News Release by the AHA/ASA, a walking speed of more than 3 feet per second (or just over 2 miles per hour) was a critical threshold to attain in order to help young stroke survivors gauge if they could safely return to work. The study concluded that in subjects walking slower than this there was a significantly less likely chance for the stroke survivor to return to work.
It is important to note the study was conducted on a small sample size
Researchers analyzed the relationship between walking speed and readiness to return to work after stroke. They compared mobility in 46 stroke survivors from Wales, U.K. – between the ages of 18 and 65 – to 15 people who had not had a stroke. They measured how fast and far participants walked in a three minute time period. A benchmark measure was calculated that predicted readiness to return to work.
Summary of Findings:
- Young stroke survivors were less efficient at walking (known as the metabolic cost of walking) compared to their healthy counterparts. This means that walking at a similar pace requires more effort and results in becoming fatigued more easily.
- A walking speed of more than 3 feet per second was a critical threshold. Stroke survivors walking slower than this were significantly less likely to return to work.
- Of the 23% who returned to work, 90% walked faster than the critical threshold. Those who returned to work walked almost 6 feet per second, compared to those who didn’t go back to work and only covered about two and a half feet per second
Walking speed is a really useful tool for clinicians to use not only to perhaps predict readiness for return to work but also to gauge the effectiveness of rehab pathways.
Some health professionals even refer to walking as the 6th vital sign. Testing gait and using it as a rehab activity is simple, low cost and effective.
Finding better ways to engage patients outside the clinic walls and track their real-life walking speed averaged throughout the day might prove a better method to monitor functional outcomes, monitor possible setbacks like falls and increase stroke recovery patient engagement.
Affordable wearable digital tools might effectively automate this process and become part of the future of home stroke recovery and prevention. If done right, these digital tools could help crowdsource patient-generated data and improve outcomes for all!