Other than recommending guidelines and educating otherwise, how can WE as physical therapists “measure” the simple activity such as walking.  Such as measuring BP, blood glucose levels, etc., most patients want to have a measurement, value, evaluation, whatever it is…to show a baseline and then a change.  Not too big of task to ask right?  Objective measurements are typically better than self-reports.

Fortunately, there are a few outcome measures available to use.  Here are the ones I know about and use.  The measure I choose obviously depends on the physical level of my patient. I don’t have any special equipment (such as in a cardiac rehab department) so leaving these out. Let me know your thoughts.

6 Minute Walk Test:

Walk 6 minutes, measure the patient’s distance (over a 100 ft course), and bam!  Typically used to measure functional capacity in pulmonary patients, but I translate it to simple functional exercise level for ADLs.  Go here for further details on administration, indications, etc.  You will be surprised how difficult this is, even for patients you would think are fairly active.  I get, “you want me to walk 6 minutes straight!?”

Walking Speed:

Noted by as the “sixth vital sign” by Fritz and Lusardi and “almost the perfect measure” by Wade, you can’t go wrong with this functional ability test.  Also has been shown to measure rehabilitation needs, dependence and even predict mortality!  Quite important I would say. A very feasible measure and should fit in your evaluation considering it takes little time to administer.

Easy to interpret with chart below:

Another good link here by NY Times Health Blog about simple activity and its effects on blood sugar.  Check it out here.  Great to relay to your patients.  Wouldn’t pain and overall outcomes improve if your patients did not have blood glucose levels spike, then drop continuously through the day.  Keeping homeostasis is important for healing.  

I have tried using pedometers with my patients but not too good of compliance.  Any other ideas?  What other objective tools do you use?


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