The time it took peopleÂ to walk 400m (1 lap around a high school track) was found to predict chances of dying and risk of cardiovascular disease. Newman et. al., 2006 (freely available) examined 3,075 subjects for both their walking speed then continued to track these subjects health. Now the subjects were 70-79 years old, but before you dismiss this as irrelevant to you continue reading until the end.
Now not all subjects were even capable of walking the 400m but of the ones that could the subjects were encouraged to walk as fast as they could (without running) at a pace they could maintain. The time to complete the 400m route could be broken down into 4 groups: 201- 289, 290-322, 323 – 361, 362 – 942 seconds. To make this more convenient I will convert these into minutes and seconds: 3 min and 31 sec. to 4 min and 49 sec for the fastest group, 4 min 50 sec to 5 min 22 sec, 5 min 23 sec to 6 min 1 sec, 6 min 1 sec to 15 min 42 sec. And to convert this into how many minutes per mile the different groups are walking you can multiply by 4 (in reality 4.0225 but 4.0 is close enough but remember to get your conversion of seconds to minutes correctly).Â So the fastest group was walking at a pace between 14 min and 4 sec to 17 min and 16 sec. to cover a mile. Now remember these were 70 to 79 year old subjects.
The subjects in the slowest group had a 2.8 times higher likelihood of dying compared to the group that could walk the fastest.
To make it even simpler and more pertinent for each minute slower a person walked the 400m there was a 29% higher rate of mortality and 20% higher rate of cardiovascular disease.
Now most of you reading this are not in their 70s but I challenge you to go walk 400m, or might as well make it a mile (4 laps around a track – close enough) and time yourself. Can you walk as fast as the fastest group of 70+ year olds which for a mile would equate to 14 min and 4 sec to 17 min and 16 sec ? I am betting most of you will not walk it in under 14 min and 4 seconds. But I am also hoping I am wrong
(Yes I am asking you to walk 4 times longer than the 70+ group but for walking speed there is no real difference between 400m and 1 mile, like there would be for running.)
Would you be concerned if you could not walk faster than the quickest 70 year old group? Of course there should be some factor that would/should be calculated for your younger age (assuming you are younger) – but we will leave that aside for now. But at the minimum I would say you should be walking faster than the healthiest 70+ year old – so go out there and see if you can walk (not run) a mile faster than 14 minutes and 4 seconds. I dare you to try this challenge
Please write a comment or send me an email with your time – you can even do it anonymously if you choose.
Update: see my next post of when I tested my own 400m walking time and 1 mile walking time.
it may relate to lean muscle mass and age which many argue is a predictor of health (like De Vany). the more lean body mass you have the younger your “physiological age” may be.
Cool! Such a simple test!
How does the ‘predictability’ of ‘walking speed’ compare to that of more sophisticated tests, like ECG during exercise, or to simply heart rate?
Can you actually compare those data and say which one has more ‘predicting power’?
Should I be more concerned over my heart rate, or walking speed….?
And for those 70s guys who have faster walking speed, do they also have slower resting heart rate?
CC and JB
thanks for the comments.
JB I added a new post addressing your thoughts about lean body mass and De Vaney. I would think the two are related, but it is still somewhat costly to get accurate measurements of your lean muscle mass (though you can get a rough comparative body fat measurement with the less than 100 dollar bio-electrical impediance bathroom scales that are now available). But the walking test is a no cost functional real world test and you can keep on retesting yourself over the years.
CC, I have not worked out which test has the best predictive power but the nice thing about the walking test is you can do it yourself and it doesn’t cost you any money – plus you get a small amount of exercise doing the test. Additionally, measurements of heart rate etc is still one step removed from function and therefore I would think the functional test such as walking could be better. Also have a higher functional ability allows us greater enjoyment when we reach old age. I would think the faster walking 70 year old have a lower heart rate.
How long does it take you to walk a mile ?