While it has already been demonstrated that the 30-ft walk test has good discriminative validity as a function of age and gender, it remains to be determined whether it can also discriminate between older adults who engage in more versus less physical activity.
Purpose: To investigate the extent to which the level of physical activity influences age-associated changes in performance on the 30-ft walk test performed at a preferred and maximum speed.
Methods: A total of 397 community-dwelling male and female adults (77.7 ± 6.5 years) performed the 30-foot walk test at a preferred and maximum speed in a single test session. Participants were divided into 5 age groups (65-69; 70-74; 75-79; 80-84; 85-89). The only stipulations for inclusion were that participants were residing independently in the community, were relatively healthy, and able to perform both walking conditions without the use of an assistive device. Mean gait velocity (GV), stride length (SL), cadence (C), gait adaptation (GA), and gait stability ratio (GSR) measures were used to investigate the discriminative validity of the test.
Results: A 5 (age) × 3 (physical activity level) MANOVA (SPSS, V16.0) produced significant multivariate effects for age and physical activity (PA) level (low vs moderate vs high). No significant multivariate interactions were observed for age by PA level. Low active adults performed significantly worse than adults who engaged in moderate and high levels of physical activity on all gait variables across all age groups. No significant differences were evident for any of the gait measures at either walking speed between the moderate and high active groups across the 5 age groups tested.
Conclusions: The 30-ft walk test is able to discriminate between older adults on the basis of physical activity levels. The results also indicate that engaging in moderate to high levels of physical activity is important for preserving multiple gait parameters well into the older adult years.