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Neuroepidemiology. 1995;14(2):65-71.

Age-associated gait changes in the elderly: pathological or physiological?

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong.



To examine the role of disease-related factors and age-related physiological changes in affecting gait speed and stride length in the elderly.


925 men and 890 women aged 70 years and above who were ambulant, recruited by random sampling stratified according to age and sex, from all recipients of Old Age and Disability Allowance in Hong Kong.


Gait was assessed by measuring the time taken and the number of steps required to complete a 16-foot walk. Information on health and functional status, cognitive function, and depressive symptoms was collected, and anthropometric indices obtained. Factors affecting walking speed and stride were examined in the overall population and also after excluding those with physical disability or diseases.


Results were analyzed separately for men and women since mean walking speed was slower in women, who also took a larger number of steps. Age, coexisting disease, leg or back pain, poor vision, low level of physical activity, functional and cognitive impairment, high depressive symptom score, and anthropometric indices were all negatively associated with walking speed. Fallers also had slower speed. After excluding those with diseases or physical impairment, multivariate analysis showed that the only factors affecting speed were age in men, and age, height, and level of physical activity in women. Age and height were factors associated with stride length in men, and height only for women.


Both disease-related factors as well as age-related physiological changes contribute to the decline in walking speed and stride length.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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