The causes of age-related differences in lower-extremity joint moments and powers are unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of highly physically active older adults walking with (1) a step length similar to young adults and (2) an upright trunk posture, on hip and ankle joint kinetics. The authors hypothesized that, compared with their self-selected walking mechanics, older adults would exhibit decreased hip kinetics and increased ankle kinetics when prescribed a young adult step length, and would exhibit decreased hip extension moments when maintaining an upright trunk posture during walking. A total of 12 active older adults (67  y) and 13 active young adults (21  y) walked at 1.3 m/s. The older adults also walked at 1.3 m/s with step lengths prescribed from height-matched young adults and, in a separate condition, walked with an upright trunk. The older adults did not display larger ankle kinetics or smaller hip kinetics in either condition compared to walking with a self-selected step length. These findings indicate that step length and trunk position do not primarily contribute to age-related differences in kinetics in highly active older adults and should serve as a starting point for investigating alternative explanations.
Rebecca L. Krupenevich and Ross H. Miller
Rebecca L. Krupenevich, Nick Murray, Patrick M. Rider, Zachary J. Domire and Paul DeVita
Since vision is used in studies of muscle force control, reduced muscle force control might be related to reduced visual ability. We investigated relationships between steadiness in eye movements and quadriceps muscle torque (a surrogate for force) during isometric contractions of constant and varying torques. Nineteen young adults with an average age of 20.7 years and 18 old adults with an average age of 71.6 years performed three vision tasks, three vision and torque tasks at 40% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), and three vision and torque tasks at 54 nm. Age groups had identical torque steadiness (CV) in 40%-MVC and 54-nm conditions (p > .05). Old had similar vertical (p > .05) but decreased horizontal visual steadiness (SD) (p < .05) compared with young. Correlations between visual steadiness and muscle torque steadiness failed to show a significant relationship (p > .05). We were unable to identify a substantial relationship between muscle torque steadiness and eye movement, as a component of visual steadiness, and conclude that reduced visual steadiness does not contribute to reduced muscle torque steadiness.
Rebecca L. Krupenevich, William H. Clark, Gregory S. Sawicki and Jason R. Franz
Ankle joint quasi-stiffness is an aggregate measure of the interaction between triceps surae muscle stiffness and Achilles tendon stiffness. This interaction may be altered due to age-related changes in the structural properties and functional behavior of the Achilles tendon and triceps surae muscles. The authors hypothesized that, due to a more compliant of Achilles’ tendon, older adults would exhibit lower ankle joint quasi-stiffness than young adults during walking and during isolated contractions at matched triceps surae muscle activations. The authors also hypothesized that, independent of age, triceps surae muscle stiffness and ankle joint quasi-stiffness would increase with triceps surae muscle activation. The authors used conventional gait analysis in one experiment and, in another, electromyographic biofeedback and in vivo ultrasound imaging applied during isolated contractions. The authors found no difference in ankle joint quasi-stiffness between young and older adults during walking. Conversely, this study found that (1) young and older adults modulated ankle joint quasi-stiffness via activation-dependent changes in triceps surae muscle length–tension behavior and (2) at matched activation, older adults exhibited lower ankle joint quasi-stiffness than young adults. Despite age-related reductions during isolated contractions, ankle joint quasi-stiffness was maintained in older adults during walking, which may be governed via activation-mediated increases in muscle stiffness.