How Wobbly is Your Walk?

Exactly how goofy is your gait? And should you care? Besides affecting the wear and tear on our shoes, uneven or unsteady walking can make us more prone for a fall.

Identifying low steadiness may be indicative of higher likelihood of falling over the next 12 months and might be a good reason to check in with a medical professional. The good news is that with the Apple Health app on your iPhone, it’s easy to get a read on several important measures of your gait.

How does this feature of the Health App work? Firstly it should come as standard on later version of the iPhone. Look for this icon and ensure you’ve downloaded the latest software version (eg iOS 15) from Apple. The app works when you carry your iPhone in a pocket or other holder near your waist.

In the app’s own words, “This is an estimate of your stability while walking. iPhone calculates Walking Steadiness using your walking speed, step length, double support time and walking asymmetry data that’s stored in Health. This provides a sense of the way you walk.”

Set up the Free Walking Steadiness Measurement

Tap the Health icon to open the app, and choose Walking Steadiness (see image below).

Fill in a few details about your age, height and weight (see below, left) and familiarize yourself with what the 3 ratings mean (below middle). NB for the competitive among us, unfortunately there’s no measurement better than “OK”, but we Super Steady Walkers know who we are, right? When you finish setting up, you’ll get a confirmation like that below, right.

Steady On

If you’ve set up notifications, you’ll also receive a warning when your steadiness is “low or very low”. But what can be done to improve matters? Of course the best course of action is to consult your doctor. And meanwhile, Apple has embedded some helpful exercises and other tips on improving your steadiness. Scroll down until you see the following articles and tap to open.

Halt, There’s More!

Walking Steadiness isn’t the only walking metric your iPhone can help you track.

In fact, it can also monitor your walking asymmetry as well as average walking speed, step length, double support time, and stair up-and-down speeds.

Walking asymmetry reveals whether you’ve got an even or uneven walking pattern. The good folks at Apple explain this: “In a healthy walking pattern, the timing of the steps you take with each foot are very similar. “Walking asymmetry is the percent of time your steps with one foot are faster or slower than the other foot. This means the lower the percentage of asymmetry, the healthier your walking pattern.”

They add: “Uneven walking patterns, such as limping, can be a sign of disease, injury or other health issues. An even or symmetrical walk is often an important physical therapy goal when recovering from injury.”

Another interesting metric is Double Support Time, which is how much of the time both of your feet are on the ground during a walk.

The lower the value, the more time you’re spending with your weight on one foot instead of two, which can be a sign of better balance. After all, it’s hard to stand on one foot when you feel unbalanced. Of course, It will vary depending on terrain. I certainly notice a difference when I walk in neighborhoods where tree roots have caused very uneven pavements or sidewalks.

You should be more focused on any changes in coordination, balance or strength that may be affecting your two-foot contact time.

And if you’re worried about you’re concerned with anything you’ve read on your Health App, it’s best to check in with your doctor.

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