Many falls in older adults occur during walking following trips. Following a trip, older adults take longer than younger adults to recover steady-state walking. Although faster gait speed may improve interlimb coordination, it may also increase fall risk in older adults. We hypothesized that older adults would take longer than younger adults to recover from an unexpected perturbation during gait especially when walking faster. Twelve younger (26.3 ± 4.4 years) and 12 older adults (68.5 ± 3.4 years) walked at comfortable, faster and slower speeds when movement of the dominant leg was unexpectedly arrested for 250. ms at 20% swing length. Gait stability was evaluated using the short- and longer-term response to perturbation.In both groups, walking faster diminished the occurrence of elevation and increased that of leg lowering. Older adults took longer than younger adults to recover steady-state walking at all speeds (3.36 ± 0.11 vs. 2.89 ± 0.08 strides) but longer-term recovery of gait stability was not related to gait speed. Arm-leg and inter-arm coordination improved with increasing gait speed in both groups, but older adults had weaker inter-leg coupling following perturbation at all speeds.Although both younger and older adults used speed appropriate responses immediately following perturbation, longer duration of recovery of steady-state walking in older adults may increase fall risk in uncontrolled situations, regardless of gait speed. Recovery from perturbation when walking faster was associated with better interlimb coordination, but not with better gait stability. This indicates that interlimb coordination and gait stability may be distinct features of locomotion.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by CHRP, NSERC and FQRNT (Canada). TK's doctoral studies were supported by CIHR Locomotor Team Grant and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (Focus on Stroke). MFL holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Motor Recovery and Rehabilitation. AL is supported by a FRSQ Junior 2 Salary Award.
- Central pattern generators
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine