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This study examined the effects of improved strength on an obstacle course (OC) simulating gait tasks commonly encountered by community-living older adults. Forty-five adults (mean age 68.2 ± 1.5 years) were randomly assigned to a control (10 women, 5 men) or an experimental group (EXP; 19 women, 10 men) and trained 3 days/week for 12 weeks. Using a 1-repetition-maximum (1-RM) method, 6 leg-strength measures were evaluated pre- and posttest. The times to walk an OC of 4 gait tasks (stepping over and across an obstacle, negotiating a raised surface, and foot targeting) set at 3 progressively challenging levels were also assessed. Significant Group × Time interactions were found on all 1-RM tests, with only EXP recording significant improvements (124–147%; p < .001). Strength gains in EXP were accompanied by significant improvements in the times to negotiate all gait stations and walk the entire OC (6-15%; p = .001–.014). This study showed that improving strength is an effective strategy to improve community locomotion, which might decrease the risks of falls in community-living older adults.
Lamoureux and Sparrow are with the School of Health Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Murphy is with the school of Human Movement Studies, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Newton is with the Biomechanics Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306.