University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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The effects of age on medio-lateral stability during normal vs. narrow base walking: The BLSA


Schrager MA, Kelly VE, Price R, Ferrucci L, Shumway-Cook A



Publication Info:

Gait & Posture, 28(3):466-71


We examined age-related differences in frontal plane stability during performance of narrow base (NB) walking relative to usual gait. A cross-sectional analysis of participants from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) was performed on data from the BLSA Motion Analysis Laboratory. Participants were 34 adults aged 54-92 without history of falls. We measured step error rates during NB gait and spatial-temporal parameters, frontal plane stability, and gait variability during usual and NB gait. There was a non-significant age-associated linear increase in step error rate (P=0.12) during NB gait. With increasing age, step width increased (P=0.002) and step length and stride velocity decreased (P<0.001), especially during NB gait. Age-associated increases in medio-lateral (M-L) center of mass (COM) peak velocity (P<0.001) and displacement (P=0.005) were also greater during NB compared to usual gait. With increasing age there was greater variability in stride velocity (P=0.001) and step length (P<0.001) under both conditions. Age-associated differences related to M-L COM stability suggest that the quantification of COM control during NB gait may improve identification of older persons at increased falls risk.

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