The patient experience of walking and how it is impacted by health conditions

A summary of research published in Age and Aging

A new study has looked at the different aspects of walking to help develop future strategies to support healthy aging.

What did the study look at?

Measuring walking in hospital or the doctor’s office only gives a brief snapshot of how someone experiences walking.

This new study used the experiences of patients living with a broad range of health conditions to understand how walking affects people, both physically and mentally. Conditions included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hip fracture, heart failure, frailty and Parkinson’s disease.

What do the results show?

The study found that the walking experience was similar across conditions. Authors described some key themes found in the research:

  • Walking is more than just physical movement. Results showed that walking is an emotional, social, and physical experience.
  • A person’s walking experience can change depending on the weather, terrain, how much energy they have on a given day, and whether they are out and about or relaxing at home.
  • Not being able to walk as far as they would like to, or without symptoms, can limit a person’s ability to do everyday activity like socialising, exercise, or looking after themselves or their families. Ultimately, this can affect their sense of identity and cause them to change their behaviour and avoid activities they feel uncomfortable doing.
Why is this important?

This insight into the walking experience has helped researchers understand more about the needs and lived experiences of people with a range of conditions. It will help researchers develop better ways to measure the real-life experience of walking in the future that do not rely on short tests on a treadmill in a clinic. Ultimately, this will help healthcare professionals support people with walking, explore better treatment options for walking impairments and improve people’s quality of life.

Read the original research paper:

Listening to the patients’ voice: a conceptual framework of the walking experience

Beyond mobility: Exploring and capturing the physical, emotional and social experiences of walking

This work is part of the EU-funded Mobilise-D project. Mobilise-D is a research consortium that is using digital technology to improve the measurement of walking performance in daily life. Partners from 34 top universities, hospitals and global industries are working together with patients, practitioners and industry experts to develop reliable measurements of real-world walking performance, such as how much someone walks, or their walking speed.