Most falls in older adults occur when walking, specifically following a trip. This study investigated the short- and longer term responses of young (n = 24, 27.6 ± 4.5 yr) and older adults (n = 18, 69.1 ± 4.2 yr) to a trip during gait at comfortable speed and the role of interlimb coordination in recovery from tripping. Subjects walked on a self-paced treadmill when forward movement of their dominant leg was unexpectedly arrested for 250 ms. Recovery of center of mass (COM) movements and of double-support duration following perturbation was determined. In addition, the disruption and recovery of interlimb coordination of the arms and legs was evaluated. Although young and older subjects used similar lower limb strategies in response to the trip, older adults had less stable COM movement patterns before perturbation, had longer transient destabilization (>25%) after perturbation, required more gait cycles to recover double-support duration (older, 3.48 ± 0.7 cycles; young, 2.88 ± 0.4 cycles), and had larger phase shifts that persisted after perturbation (older, -83° to -90°; young, -39° to -42°). Older adults also had larger disruptions to interlimb coordination of the arms and legs. The timing of the initial disruption in coordination was correlated with the disturbance in gait stability only in young adults. In older adults, greater initial COM instability was related to greater longer term arm incoordination. These results suggest a relationship between interlimb coordination and gait stability, which may be associated with fall risk in older adults. Reduced coordination and gait stability suggest a need for stability-related functional training even in high-functioning older adults.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (all)