In negotiating stairs, low foot clearance increases the risk of tripping and a fall. Foot clearance may be related to physical fitness, which differs between active and sedentary participants, and be acutely affected by exercise. Impaired stair negotiation could be an acute response to exercise. Here we determined acute changes in foot clearances during stair walking in sedentary (n = 15) and physically active older adults (n = 15) after prolonged exercise.
Kinematic data were acquired during negotiation with a 3-steps staircase while participants walked at preferred speed, before and after 30 min walking at preferred speed and using a treadmill. Foot clearances were compared before and after exercise and between the groups.
Sedentary older adults presented larger (0.5 cm for lead and 2 cm for trail leg) toe clearances in ascent, smaller (0.7 cm) heel clearance in the leading foot in descent, and larger (1 cm) heel clearance in the trailing foot in descent than physically active.
Sedentary older adults negotiate stairs in a slightly different way than active older adults, and 30 min walking at preferred speed does not affect clearance in stair negotiation.