Shirley walking towards an orange pylon during a walk test

Meet Shirley: walking toward better testing

Using her walker, Shirley Leaf confidently walks down the corridor of St. John's Rehab Hospital and stops when she arrives at a bright orange pylon. "I've walked for two minutes and I don't feel tired - I am definitely ready to go home!"

As Shirley walks, her gait, balance and distance are carefully measured by Maria Lung, Physiotherapist and Researcher. Lung works with a team to compare the benefits of two tests that measure how people can return to walking after hip or knee replacement surgery.

Physiotherapists frequently use walk tests to reflect patients' quality of life, monitor their treatment progress, and measure their walking ability. Typically, each test takes six minutes.

Not all walk tests are considered equal. According to Lung, "a two-minute walk test is simpler and less straining on patients."

There are other benefits. In a busy rehabilitation unit, time and space for a six-minute walk test can be limited. Also, many patients cannot physically tolerate a long test, as they might feel tired or experience pain during and after the test.

The research team hopes to show that the shorter test is an equally valid measure of quality of life, and can also free up valuable time for additional patient care.

Patients could spend less time undergoing tests, and more time recovering so they can return home to their families and lives.