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Alison C. Novak and Brenda Brouwer

This study describes and contrasts the kinematics and kinetics of stair ambulation in people with chronic stroke and healthy control subjects. Three-dimensional motion data were collected from 10 persons with stroke (7 males) and 10 sex and age-matched older adults as they ascended and descended an instrumented staircase at self-selected speed with and without a handrail. Ankle, knee and hip joint angle and moment profiles were generated during stance and range of motion and peak moments were contrasted between groups, sides (stroke only) and condition. Cadence was lower in stroke than controls, although the kinematic profiles appeared similar during ascent and decent. Notable differences in joint kinetics were evident as the peak extensor moments were typically lower on the affected side in stroke compared with controls and the less affected side. These differences accounted for the lower magnitude net extensor support moment. The lower affected side hip abductor moments likely limited lateral stability. Handrail use tended to reduce the peak moments on the affected side only leading to more side-to-side differences than occurred without the handrail. The findings reveal differences in task performance between stroke and healthy groups that help inform rehabilitation practice.

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Priscilla G. MacRae, John F. Schnelle, Sandra F. Simmons and Joseph G. Ouslander

The purpose of this study was to describe the physical activity levels of ambulatory nursing home residents (N = 95) and identify factors that predicted these activity levels. The residents’ physical activity levels (standing, walking, and wheelchair propulsion), as measured by time-sampled observations and Caltrac motion sensors, indicated that restraint use was the major predictor of low physical activity. Both the physically restrained and the physically unrestrained groups, however, were inactive, with 93.8% and 83.5% of the observations, respectively, representing either lying or sitting. In the unrestrained group, scores measuring the resident’s fall risk, self-selected walking speed, upper and lower body strength, and body mass index were significant predictors of physical activity level. In the restrained group, scores measuring the resident’s fall risk and upper body strength were significant predictors of activity level.

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Marie-Louise Bird, Keith Hill, Madeleine Ball and Andrew D. Williams

This research explored the balance benefits to untrained older adults of participating in community-based resistance and flexibility programs. In a blinded randomized crossover trial, 32 older adults (M = 66.9 yr) participated in a resistance-exercise program and a flexibility-exercise program for 16 weeks each. Sway velocity and mediolateral sway range were recorded. Timed up-and-go, 10 times sit-to-stand, and step test were also assessed, and lower limb strength was measured. Significant improvements in sway velocity, as well as timed up-and-go, 10 times sit-to-stand, and step test, were seen with both interventions, with no significant differences between the 2 groups. Resistance training resulted in significant increases in strength that were not evident in the flexibility intervention. Balance performance was significantly improved after both resistance training and standing flexibility training; however, further investigation is required to determine the mechanisms responsible for the improvement.

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Column-editor : James M. Mensch

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R. Barry Dale and Danny Myers

Edited by Monique Mokha

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Li-Tang Tsai, Merja Rantakokko, Anne Viljanen, Milla Saajanaho, Johanna Eronen, Taina Rantanen and Erja Portegijs

This cross-sectional study investigated associations between reasons to go outdoors and objectively-measured walking activity in various life-space areas among older people. During the study, 174 community-dwelling older people aged 75–90 from central Finland wore an accelerometer over seven days and recorded their reasons to go outdoors in an activity diary. The most common reasons for going outdoors were shopping, walking for exercise, social visits, and running errands. Activities done in multiple life-space areas contributed more to daily step counts than those done in the neighborhood or town and beyond. Those who went shopping or walked for exercise accumulated higher daily step counts than those who did not go outdoors for these reasons. These results show that shopping and walking for exercise are common reasons to go outdoors for community-dwelling older people and may facilitate walking activity in older age. Future studies on how individual trips contribute to the accumulation of steps are warranted.

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Addie Middleton, George D. Fulk, Michael W. Beets, Troy M. Herter and Stacy L. Fritz

Daily ambulatory activity is associated with health and functional status in older adults; however, assessment requires multiple days of activity monitoring. The objective of this study was to determine the relative capabilities of self-selected walking speed (SSWS), maximal walking speed (MWS), and walking speed reserve (WSR) to provide insight into daily ambulatory activity (steps per day) in community-dwelling older adults. Sixty-seven older adults completed testing and activity monitoring (age 80.39 [6.73] years). SSWS (R 2 = .51), MWS (R 2 = .35), and WSR calculated as a ratio (R 2 = .06) were significant predictors of daily ambulatory activity in unadjusted linear regression. Cutpoints for participants achieving < 8,000 steps/day were identified for SSWS (≤ 0.97 m/s, 44.2% sensitivity, 95.7% specificity, 10.28 +LR, 0.58 −LR) and MWS (≤ 1.39 m/s, 60.5% sensitivity, 78.3% specificity, 2.79 +LR, 0.50 −LR). SSWS may be a feasible proxy for assessing and monitoring daily ambulatory activity in older adults.

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George J. Holland, Kiyoji Tanaka, Ryosuke Shigematsu and Masaki Nakagaichi

This review examines the influences of physiological aging processes on connective tissue, joint integrity, flexibility (range of motion [ROM]), and physical functions of older adults. Studies that attempted to improve older adults' ROM are also critiqued. Multiple mechanisms of musculoskeletal and soft-tissue degeneration, as well as disease processes (osteoporosis, arthritis, atherosclerosis), contribute to significant decreases in neuromuscular function and ROM in older adults, all of which can be exacerbated by disuse influences. No delineation of disuse effects on the rate of aging-related decrements in ROM can be provided, however, because long-term investigations (with physical activity controls) have not been conducted. Research efforts have documented both upper and lower extremity decrements in ROM with development of physical impairments, reductions in basic and instrumental activities of daily living, and progression of disability. There is limited research evidence that either specialized stretch-training or general-exercise intervention protocols moderately improve ROM in older adults and the frail elderly.

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Kyle Kiesel, Lee Burton and Gray Cook

Column-editor : Carl G. Mattacola