This study compared functional demand (FD) between older and younger women walking at habitual and fast speed and determined strength thresholds necessary to maintain FD below 80%. FD was calculated by expressing walking flexion and extension joint torques of the ankle, knee, and hip as a percentage of maximal strength. Young women had an average FD of 65% across joint actions and speeds, whereas older women had FD of 90%. In older women, the greatest FD occurred in the hip musculature. The hip, knee, and ankle extensor strengths required to maintain FD below 80% were 1.66, 1.86, and 0.57 Nm/kg, and flexor strengths were 1.24, 0.49, and 0.69 Nm/kg, respectively. Older women have limited functional reserve to increase gait speed and rely heavily on available hip strength during walking. This study identifies strength targets for the hip, knee, and ankle that will assist in maintaining FD of older women at a sustainable level.
Spinoso is with the Dept. of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, São Paulo State University (UNESP), Marilia, Brazil. Marques is with the Center of Health Sciences, Sacred Heart University (USC), Bauru, Brazil. LaRoche is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of New Hampshire (UNH), Durham, NH. Hallal is with the Dept. of Physical Education and Physical Therapy, Uberlândia Federal University (UFU), Uberlândia, Brazil. Karuka, Milanezi, and Gonçalves are with the Dept. of Physical Education, São Paulo State University (UNESP), Rio Claro, Brazil.