Age-Related Differences in Muscle Power during Single-Step Balance Recovery

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Michael L. Madigan Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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The purpose of this study was to investigate agerelated differences in muscle power during a surrogate task of trip recovery. Participants included 10 healthy young men (19–23 years old) and 10 healthy older men (65–83). The task involved releasing participants from a forward-leaning posture. After release, participants attempted to recover their balance using a single step of the right foot. Muscle power at the hip, knee, and ankle of the stepping limb were determined from the product of joint angular velocity and joint torque. Muscle powers during balance recovery followed a relatively consistent pattern in both young and older men, and showed effects of both lean and age. Interestingly, the effects of age did not always involve smaller peak power values in the older men as expected from the well-documented loss of muscle power with aging. Older men exhibited smaller peak muscle power at the knee and larger peak muscle power at the ankle and hip compared to young men. The increases in muscle power at the ankle and hip may result from a neuromuscular adaptation aimed at improving balance recovery ability by compensating for the age-related loss of muscle function.

The author is with Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech–Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (0219), Blacksburg, VA 20461.

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