Open Access Research article

Gait speed correlates in a multiracial population of community-dwelling older adults living in Brazil: a cross-sectional population-based study

Cintia Regina Ruggero1, Tereza Lofredo Bilton2, Luiza Faria Teixeira1, Juliane de Lemos Armada Ramos13, Sandra Regina Alouche1, Rosangela Correa Dias4 and Monica Rodrigues Perracini1356*

Author Affiliations

1 Master’s and Doctoral Programs in Physical Therapy, Universidade Cidade de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

2 Human Science and Health College, Pontificia Universidade Catolica, Sao Paulo, Brazil

3 Faculty of Medicine, State University of Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

4 Physiotherapy Department, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

5 Visiting Research Fellow at Sydney University and The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, Australia

6 Rua Cesareo Galeno, 448, Sao Paulo, Tatuape, Brazil

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:182  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-182

Published: 28 February 2013



Gait speed is a strong predictor of a wide range of adverse health outcomes in older adults. Mean values for gait speed in community-dwelling older adults vary substantially depending on population characteristics, suggesting that social, biological, or health factors might explain why certain groups tend to self-select their gait speed in different patterns. The vast majority of studies reported in the literature present data from North American and European populations. There are few population-based studies from other regions with a different ethnicity and/or social and health conditions. To address this, the present study identified the mean usual and fast gait speeds in a representative multiracial population of community-dwelling older adults living in a developing country, and explored their association with sociodemographic, mental and physical health characteristics.


This was a cross-sectional population-based study of a sample of 137 men and 248 women, aged 65 years and over. Usual gait speed and fast gait speed were measured on a 4.6 m path. Participants were classified into slow, intermediate, and faster groups by cluster analysis. Logistic regression analysis was used to estimate the independent effect of each factor on the odds of presenting with a slower usual and slower fast gait speeds.


Participants had a mean (SD) usual gait speed of 1.11 (0.27) m/s and a mean fast gait speed of 1.39 (0.34) m/s. We did not observe an independent association between gait speed and race/ethnicity, educational level, or income. The main contributors to present a slower usual gait speed were low physical activity level, stroke, diabetes, urinary incontinence, high concern about falling, and old age. A slower fast gait speed was associated with old age, low physical activity, urinary incontinence and high concern about falling.


A multiracial population of older adults living in a developing country showed a similar mean gait speed to that observed in previously studied populations. The results suggest that low physical activity, urinary incontinence and high concern about falling should not be neglected and may help identify those who might benefit from early intervention.

Gait speed; Aged; Aged health; Urinary incontinence; Physical performance; Cross-sectional studies