The start of a new year is an opportunity to make health and wellbeing a priority for the days ahead, and for many, 2021 will be no exception. If the turmoil and uncertainty of last year has a silver lining, our understanding of what contributes to overall health has grown tremendously. The ongoing pandemic has shed light on some overlooked factors in wellness, from social connections that are important to time spent in the sun. The health community has also made great strides in helping people achieve better health with an often neglected vital sign: gait.
Our lifestyle changed tremendously during the pandemic. We spend more time at home – we work from home, our favorite restaurants and shops are closed – and when we go out, we keep our distance from people around us. For many of us, our eating routine has changed and we are less active than before, which can ultimately lead to deterioration in physical and mental health.
However, with a little effort – and a pair of shoes – you can change your lifestyle by better understanding your gait.
What is gang? And how does it affect your health?
In simple terms, gait is your way of walking, and a growing body of research shows it is a significant predictor of overall and ongoing health. Your gait depends on how mobile you are, which means it's connected to virtually every system in your body. That is what makes it such a useful measure of health. And that's why gang is often referred to as the sixth sign of life.
Healthcare professionals can tell a lot about a person's health from their walk. It is therefore likely that people with neurological, muscular, or skeletal problems will undergo an observational gait analysis as part of their physical assessment. Think about your blood pressure. It alone does not reveal the full story of your health. However, high blood pressure can determine your risk for a number of negative future health events such as heart attack and stroke. When combined with other health indicators, this becomes an even more helpful measure.
Your gait can also tell you a lot about your health and functional status. Gait and walking speed serve as clinical indicators of well-being and longevity. Walking speed can predict a range of future health events, from dysfunction and falls to hospitalizations and mortality. And a recent study found a strong association between decreased walking speed and accelerated aging rates in otherwise healthy adults over the age of 40.
How can your gait change? Simply put, the body responds to pain. Mechanoreceptors detect pain and send signals to the brain to compensate for and adjust the movement pattern to avoid pain. This is one of the reasons our gait pattern changes when we experience pain in our lower extremities (such as your knee). We avoid the strain whenever possible and reduce our speed and stride length to avoid pain. In some cases, we will notice some changes in gait symmetry, suggesting that one limb is more painful than the other. Understanding gait deviations can help us understand the severity and choose the appropriate treatment.
Gait analysis is no longer just for runners – as technology makes it accessible to everyone.
Gait analysis is a tool to understand how the human body moves. Runners have long used it to improve performance, relieve pain, and reduce the risk of injury. In the recent past this has meant visiting running shops for a professional gait analysis. Nowadays it is easier than ever for anyone to access the benefits of gait analysis from the comfort of their own home.
Whether you're looking to improve your mobility, address a chronic pain issue, or just want to get a picture of your overall health, biometric technology puts the power of gait analysis in your hands – and it starts with your feet. Much like the fitness tracker you might already wear on your wrist, biometric devices and sensors that collect important data about your body's movements can be attached to or embedded in your shoes.
Technology giants like Apple and Google have begun to see the potential of gait analysis. Apple recently updated its Apple Watch signature to include metrics to measure gait quality. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reportedly plans to develop shoes with embedded sensors that can be used to track users' gait, walking speed, weight and other metrics.
Are you struggling with your gait?
If you are struggling with mobility problems, treatment to change your gait can help. Consider making a New Year's resolution to speak to your GP about treatment options. There are a number of medical, surgical, and biomechanical treatments for gait pain. However, there are also non-invasive treatment options such as AposHealth®, with which the causes of pain can be eliminated, body mechanics and muscle function can be improved and no interruptions to the daily routine are required.
To date, AposHealth® has been used by more than 100,000 patients worldwide to temporarily relieve pain, improve running behavior and improve quality of life. There are more than 60 publications in journals, including a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in which 83% of AposHealth®-treated knee osteoarthritis patients reported temporary pain relief of greater than 50% to 42% in an active control group.
More information about AposHealth® can be found at: https://www.aposhealth.co.uk/.
Ganit Segal, MPE, is the Chief Scientific Officer at AposHealth®. She holds a master's degree in life sciences with a specialization in biomechanics and has over 15 years of experience in medical research. She has more than 35 journals and extensive experience in scientific reviews, including global clinical trends and guidelines, comparative analysis, and more.