Understanding Walking Steadiness
What Is Walking Steadiness?
Walking steadiness is your ability to walk under control in a variety of conditions. The way a person walks, called their gait, is as unique to them as their fingerprint. By measuring different components of a person’s gait, you can get a good idea of how balanced and efficient it is. Better balance and efficiency means better walking steadiness.
Walking steadiness also has a relationship with a person’s risk of falling. The steadier they are, the lower the risk of falling in the future. The more unsteady, the higher the fall risk.
Why You Should Monitor Walking Steadiness
As people age, their chances of being injured in a fall increase quite a bit. Falls are the leading cause of severe injury in older adults.
By tracking your walking steadiness over time, you’re able to see changes before they become pronounced. And the sooner you notice a problem, the sooner you may be able to start to improve your steadiness.
Walking involves the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems, so your stride can also be a good indicator of overall health.
Changes in a person’s walking steadiness can be a symptom of other health problem. These can range from issues such as poor vision or arthritis to Parkinson’s Disease or depression. Some medications can also influence your steadiness.
How To Improve Your Walking Steadiness
Most people don’t lose or gain walking steadiness quickly. Depending on your current level of steadiness, consistent exercise that focuses on strength and balance can help you maintain or even increase your steadiness over time.
Exercises such as Tai Chi and yoga are also beneficial for improving strength and balance, and work to increase overall flexibility.
If your walking steadiness has declined to a low level, there are also certain basic exercises you can do at home that may improve your steadiness.
Estimating Your Walking Steadiness
The most accurate way to assess walking steadiness is to have a gait assessment in a lab setting. A technician will film you from multiple angles as you walk at different speeds, then use special equipment to measure the pressure of each step, the length of your stride and the amount of time each foot stays on the ground. This assessment isn’t done very often, in part due to costs and access to the proper equipment. More commonly, your doctor may ask you to perform tasks like standing up from a chair and walking across a room as another way of assessing your steadiness.