It has been well documented that walking speed and grip strength are reliable measures for predicting the risk of falls in the elderly (1,2,3,5). However, It is less well known that by simply walking a little faster we can be reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke later in life.

A recent meta-analysis study (4) found that individuals who had a faster walking pace had a 44% lower risk of stroke.

The risk of stroke was decreased by 13% for every 1 km/h increase in walking pace. The fastest speed recorded was 5.6km/h (3.5 mph) and the slowest was 1.6km/h (1mph).

It's only walking though! 

Did you realise that walking is free and that you walk anywhere at any time? Of course you did…...

But give it some thought, the next time you're out walking the dog consider walking briskly. Just by making that small conscious effort it could help you build up more stamina, burn more calories and it is suitable for all levels of ability. “Walking speed is considered to be one of the most important physical attributes and a good indicator of your overall health” (5).

Why is walking speed going to lower my risk of a stroke? 

By increasing the speed at which you walk, you are essentially increasing the intensity of the exercise and making your circulation work harder (6,7). By increasing your cardiovascular fitness you are reducing your risk of a stroke and cardiovascular disease. 

In the elderly or people who are classed as high risk, the common or more popular tests or assessments of aerobic fitness can be risky or unsuitable. For these groups of people, a test such as the ‘Six-Minute Walk Test’ can be a suitable and safer way to assess cardiorespiratory fitness and is inversely associated with the risk of strokes (8,9,10,11). 

In Summary

Assessing one's walking speed is a reliable measure in potentially predicting someone's future health risks (12,1314). A decrease in someone's walking speed can highlight a possible red flag in their functional and physiological status and be a predictor of future falls (15,16,17,18). One study (19) even stated that a person’s walking speed is “almost the perfect measure” of our physiological changes. And just like a measurement of blood pressure, it may be a simple indicator that can predict future problems and highlight various underlying physiological changes (20).




1. Lee L, Patel T, Costa A, Bryce E, Hillier LM, Slonim K, Hunter SW, Heckman G, Molnar F. Screening for frailty in primary care: Accuracy of gait speed and hand-grip strength. Can Fam Physician. 2017 Jan;63(1):e51-e57. PMID: 28115460; PMCID: PMC5257239.

2. Apóstolo J, Cooke R, Bobrowicz-Campos E, Santana S, Marcucci M, Cano A, Vollenbroek-Hutten M, Germini F, Holland C. Predicting risk and outcomes for frail older adults: an umbrella review of frailty screening tools. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2017 Apr;15(4):1154-1208. doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2016-003018. PMID: 28398987; PMCID: PMC5457829.

3. Liu MA, DuMontier C, Murillo A, Hshieh TT, Bean JF, Soiffer RJ, Stone RM, Abel GA, Driver JA. Gait speed, grip strength, and clinical outcomes in older patients with hematologic malignancies. Blood. 2019 Jul 25;134(4):374-382. doi: 10.1182/blood.2019000758. Epub 2019 Jun 5. PMID: 31167800; PMCID: PMC6659254.

4. Minghui Quan, Pengcheng Xun, Ru Wang, Ka He, Peijie Chen, Walking pace and the risk of stroke: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies, Journal of Sport and Health Science, Vol 9, Issue 6, 2020,P 521-529.

5. R. Cooper, D. Kuh, R. Hardy, Mortality Review Group FALCon and HALCyon Study Teams Objectively measured physical capability levels and mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ, 341 (2010)

6. C.D. Lee, A.R. Folsom, S.N. Blair Physical activity and stroke risk: a meta-analysis Stroke, 34 (2003), pp. 2475-2481

7. J. Li, J. Siegrist Physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies Int J Environ Res Public Health, 9 (2012), pp. 391-407

8. K. Kamiya, N. Hamazaki, Y. Matsue, A. Mezzani, U. Corrà, R. Matsuzawa, et al. Gait speed has comparable prognostic capability to six-minute walk distance in older patients with cardiovascular disease Eur J Prev Cardiol, 25 (2018), pp. 212-219

9. S. Solway, D. Brooks, Y. Lacasse, S. Thomas A qualitative systematic overview of the measurement properties of functional walk tests used in the cardiorespiratory domain, 119 (2001), pp. 256-270

10. A. Pandey, M.R. Patel, B. Willis, A. Gao, D. Leonard, S.R. Das, et al. Association between midlife cardiorespiratory fitness and risk of stroke: the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study Stroke, 47 (2016), pp. 1720-1726

11. S.P. Hooker, X. Sui, N. Colabianchi, J. Vena, J. Laditka, M.J. LaMonte, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a predictor of fatal and nonfatal stroke in asymptomatic women and men Stroke, 39 (2008), pp. 2950-2957

12. Richards CL, Olney SJ. Hemiparetic gait following stroke. Part II: Recovery and physical therapy. Gait Posture. 1996:149-162.

13. Steffen TM, Hacker TA, Mollinger L. Age- and gender-related test performance in community-dwelling elderly people: Six-Minute Walk Test, Berg Balance Scale, Timed Up & Go Test, and gait speeds. Phys Ther. 2002;82:128-137.

14. Mangione KK, Craik RL, Lopopolo R, Tomlinson JD, Brenneman S. Predictors of gait speed in patients after hip fracture. Physiother Can. 2007;59:10-18.

15. Purser JL, Weinberger M, Cohen HJ, et al. Walking speed predicts health status and hospital costs for frail elderly male veterans. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2005;42:535-546.

16. Brach JS, VanSwearingen JM, Newman AB, Kriska AM. Identifying early decline of physical function in community-dwelling older women: performance-based and self report measures. Phys Ther. 2002;82:320-328.

17. Montero-Odasso M, Schapira M, Soriano ER, Varela M, Kaplan R, Camera LA, Mayorga LM. Gait velocity as a single predictor of adverse events in healthy seniors aged 75 years and older. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005;60:1304-1309.

18. Guimaraes RM, Isaacs B. Characteristics of the gait in old people who fall. Int Rehabil Med. 1980;2:177-180.

19. Fritz, Stacy PT, PhD1; Lusardi, Michelle PT, PhD2 White Paper: “Walking Speed: the Sixth Vital Sign”, Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: 2009 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 2-5.

20. Studenski S, Perera S, Wallace D, et al. Physical performance measures in the clinical setting. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003;51:314-322.