Age-related adaptations during walking create a more stable walking pattern, which is less effective for forward progression and might be related to balance deficiencies. This study determined the relationship between walking stability and measures of balance in older adults. Seventeen older and 20 young adults performed the Berg Balance Test (BBT) and walked 10 m. Walking velocity (WV) and cadence were measured, and a gait-stability ratio (GSR) was calculated. Higher GSR indicated that a greater portion of the gait cycle was spent in double-limb support. Age-group comparisons established declines in BBT scores and WV and increases in GSR with age. Significant relationships were identified for BBT Item 12 (alternate stepping on a stool) with WV (r = .58, r2 = .34) and GSR (r = −.74, r2 = .54). The correlation of BBT Item 12 with GSR was stronger than with WV (p < .05). Results indicated a strong relationship between increased gait stability and decreased balance for a dynamic weight-shifting task. Therefore, GSR is a better indicator of balance deficits during walking than is WV alone.
Cromwell is with the Dept. of Physical Therapy, Division of Rehabilitation Sciences and Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-1144. Newton is with the Institute on Aging, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19140.