The sound is unmistakable.

The crash of breaking equipment and crockery.

The thud as the body hits the floor hard.

The cry of pain.

A patient has fallen while walking.

An amazing new free iPhone app has been developed that investigates whether walking speed can be a predictor of future health events.

No one knows what a “healthy” walking speed is. 

This app uses ResearchKit, which shares data from an iPhone, to measure walking speed.

To use the app is as simple entering basic information, walking for two minutes and basic health information.

ResearchKit keeps the data private but the Duke University researchers can only gain access to the data if the patient agrees.

Apple’s Health App website states:

The Health app keeps your health and fitness information under your control and in one place on your device. The information that you create or gather about yourself is yours to use and share. You decide what information goes into the Health app and which apps can get your information from the Health app. All of your health information stored in the Health app is encrypted with your passcode when you lock your iPhone.

Apps that access HealthKit must have a privacy policy. Review an app’s privacy policy before allowing access to your health and fitness information.

The 6th Vital Sign is a global research study that is measuring whether walking speed can predict future health events.

Walking speed is one measure of whether a patient can do the activities of daily living. 

It is also a predictor of falls or need for hospitalisation.

Walking speed is affected by many factors, such as 

1. emotions, 

2. motivation

3.  how the patient perceives and interacts with their immediate environment,  and 

4. personal relationships.

But there is currently no way of checking how fast people can walk.

One of the goals of the research is to create or discover:

  • What a “normal” or “healthy” walking speed is for different groups of people based on things like age or sex.
  • Real-time maps of walking speed around the world,
  • new ways to measure common diseases and symptoms.

Using the app, walking speed may bea vital sign that will be measured routinely along with blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature and pain.

To learn more about walking speed:

Fritz S, Lusardi M. White paper:“walking speed: the sixth vital sign”. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 2009 Jan 1;32(2):2-5.