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, r 2 = .34) and GSR (r = −.74, r 2 = .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.
Ronita L. Cromwell and Roberta A. Newton
Helen L. Rogers, Ronita L. Cromwell and James L. Grady
The study proposed to identify balance strategies used by younger and older adults during gait under proprioceptive, visual, and simultaneous proprioceptive-visual challenges. Participants ambulated under 4 conditions: consistent, noncompliant surface; inconsistent, compliant surface (C); consistent, noncompliant surface with vision obscured (NCVO); and inconsistent, compliant surface with vision obscured (CVO). Balance adaptations were measured as changes in gait velocity, cadence, and gait-stability ratio (GSR). Participants were 5 younger (mean age = 27.2) and 5 older (mean age = 68) healthy adults. Significant age differences were found for GSR (p = .03) on all surfaces. Older adults adopted a more stable gait pattern than younger adults regardless of the challenge presented by surface. Significant condition differences were found for velocity (p < .001) and cadence (p = .001). All participants exhibited significantly decreased velocity and increased cadence on surfaces C and CVO. Gait speed and cadence did not significantly change in NCVO. Younger and older adults exhibited similar adaptive balance strategies, slowing and increasing steps/s, under proprioceptive and proprioceptive-visual challenges to dynamic balance.
Regina R. Buccello-Stout, Ronita L. Cromwell, Jacob J. Bloomberg and Elbert B. Whorton
The goal of this study was to determine if exposure to sensorimotor adaptation training improved head stabilization in older adults. Sixteen participants, age 66–81 yr, were assigned at random to the control group (n = 8) or the experimental group (n = 8). Both groups first completed 6 trials of walking a foam pathway consisting of a moveable platform that induced a lateral perturbation during walking. Head-in-space and trunk-in-space angular velocities were collected. Participants from both groups then trained twice per week for 4 wk. Both groups walked on a treadmill for 20 min. The control group viewed a static scene. The experimental group viewed a rotating visual scene that provided a perceptual-motor mismatch. After training, both groups were retested on the perturbation pathway test. The experimental group used a movement strategy that preserved head stabilization compared with the controls (p < .05). This training effect was not retained after 4 wk.