The principles of direct dynamics and oscillating systems have been used to study the development of gait parameters in children, with respect to their kinetic consequences on the oscillations of body center of mass (CM). In particular the equations established (a) a natural body frequency (NBF), a body parameter specific to oscillating movements which is invariant for adults and decreases with age for children, and (b) the amplitude ratio of CM to center-of-foot pressure (CP) oscillations as a parametric function of the step frequency, whose parameter is the NBF. This function was used to analyze the development of gait locomotors with respect to their kinetic effects on balance in the frontal plane. Five children were examined longitudinally during their first 5 years of independent walking (IW), and two cross-sectional groups between 5 and 7 years of IW were also considered. The results showed a shift toward the low end of step frequency bands as the NBF decreased along with in variances in the amplitudes of CM oscillation in both the frontal and sagittal planes, regardless of age and gait velocity. The biomechanical meaning of the NBF, of its decrease and of postural invariances associated with the decrease of the frequency, are discussed as well how the programming of locomotor parameters adapts to changes in body structure during gait development.
Yvon Brenière is with the Laboratoire de Physiologie du Movement, INSERM U483, Université Paris-sud, Bat 470, 91405 Orsay, France.