Holding an object has been found to reduce postural sway during quiet standing. However, people normally stand to accomplish suprapostural goals, such as fitting a key into a lock. Postural control should therefore be assessed by examining postural outcomes in the context of suprapostural task performance. This study assessed whether holding an object increased standing postural stability and improved the performance of a concurrent precision manual task. A total of 15 young adults performed a precision manual task with their dominant hand while holding or not holding an object in their nondominant hand. Postural stability was assessed using measures of postural sway and time to boundary. Suprapostural task performance was assessed as an error count. Holding did not influence postural sway or suprapostural task performance. Discrepancies among previous studies coupled with the present findings suggest that the effects of holding an object on standing posture are highly sensitive to the experimental context. The authors provide several explanations for their findings and discuss the limitations of previous suggestions that holding an object may have clinical relevance for balance-compromised populations.
The authors are with the Department of Health & Kinesiology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA.