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Although lower limb strength becomes asymmetrical with age, past studies of aging effects on gait biomechanics have usually analyzed only one limb. This experiment measured how aging and treadmill surface influenced both dominant and nondominant step parameters in older (mean 74.0 y) and young participants (mean 21.9 y). Step-cycle parameters were obtained from 3-dimensional position/time data during preferred-speed walking for 40 trials along a 10 m walkway and for 10 minutes of treadmill walking. Walking speed (young 1.23 m/s, older 1.24 m/s) and step velocity for the two age groups were similar in overground walking but older adults showed significantly slower walking speed (young 1.26 m/s, older 1.05 m/s) and step velocity on the treadmill due to reduced step length and prolonged step time. Older adults had shorter step length than young adults and both groups reduced step length on the treadmill. Step velocity and length of older adults’ dominant limb was asymmetrically larger. Older adults increased the proportion of double support in step time when treadmill walking. This adaptation combined with reduced step velocity and length may preserve balance. The results suggest that bilateral analyses should be employed to accurately describe asymmetric features of gait especially for older adults.
Hanatsu Nagano, Rezaul K. Begg, William A. Sparrow (Corresponding Author), and Simon Taylor are with the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living and the School of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, Victoria, Australia.