BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Low and slowing gait speeds among nursing home residents are linked to a higher risk of disability, cognitive impairment, falls, and mortality. A better understanding of the spatiotemporal parameters of gait that influence declining mobility could lead to effective rehabilitation and preventative intervention. The aims of this study were to objectively quantify the spatiotemporal characteristics of gait in the nursing home setting and define the relationship between these parameters and gait speed.
METHODS: One hundred nursing home residents were enrolled into the study and completed 3 habitual gait speed trials over a distance of 3.66 m. Trials were performed using an instrumented gait analysis. The manner in which the spatiotemporal parameters predicted gait speed was examined by univariate and multivariable regression modeling.
RESULTS: The nursing home residents had a habitual mean (SD) gait speed of 0.63 (0.19) m/s, a stride length of 0.83 (0.15) m, a support base of 0.15 (0.06) m, and step time of 0.66 (0.12) seconds. Multivariable linear regression revealed stride length, support base, and step time predicted gait speed (R = 0.89, P < .05). Step time had the greatest influence on gait speed, with each 0.1-second decrease in step time resulting in a 0.09 m/s (95% confidence interval, 0.08-0.10) increase in habitual gait speed.
CONCLUSIONS: This study revealed step time, stride length, and support base are the strongest predictors of gait speed among nursing home residents. Future research should concentrate on developing and evaluating intervention programs that were specifically designed to focus on the strong predictors of gait speed in nursing home residents. We would also suggest that routine assessments of gait speed, and if possible their spatiotemporal characteristics, be done on all nursing home residents in an attempt to identify residents with low or slowing gait speed.