Measuring Fitness in Healthy Older Adults: The Health ABC Long Distance Corridor Walk

Authors


Address correspondence to Eleanor M. Simonsick, PhD, National Institute on Aging, Gerontology Research Center, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Box 06, Baltimore, Maryland 21224.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: The Health ABC Long Distance Corridor Walk (LDCW) was designed to extend the testing range of self-paced walking tests of fitness for older adults by including a warm-up and timing performance over 400 meters. This study compares performance on the LDCW and 6-minute walk to determine whether the LDCW encourages greater participant effort.

DESIGN: Subjects were administered the LDCW and 6-minute walk during a single visit. Test order alternated between subjects, and a 15-minute rest was given between tests.

SETTING: The Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

PARTICIPANTS: Twenty volunteers age 70 to 78.

MEASUREMENTS: The LDCW, consisting of a 2-minute warm-up walk followed by a 400-meter walk and a 6-minute walk test were administered using a 20-meter long course in an unobstructed hallway. Heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) were recorded at rest and before and after all walks.

RESULTS: All 20 subjects walked a faster pace over 400 meters than for 6 minutes, in which the mean distance covered was 402 meters. From paired t-tests, walking speed was faster (mean difference = 0.23 m/sec; P < .001), and ending HR (mean difference = 7.6 bpm; P < .001) and systolic BP (mean difference = 8.3 mmHg; P = .024) were greater for the 400-meter walk than for the 6-minute walk. Results were independent of test order and subject fitness level.

CONCLUSIONS: Providing a warm-up walk and using a target distance instead of time encouraged subjects to work closer to their maximum capacity. This low-cost alternative to treadmill testing can be used in research and clinical settings to assess fitness and help identify early functional decline in older adults.

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