Lower-limb coordination and variability during gait : the effects of age and walking surface
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofGait and posture ; vol. 85, pp. 251-257.
Background Falls among community-dwelling older adults are often triggered by uneven walkways. Joint coordination and its variability change with age and may place older adults at risk of falling. It is unclear how irregular surfaces impact lower-limb joint coordination and if such changes are exacerbated by aging. Research question To what extent do lower-limb inter-joint coordination and its variability, over flat and uneven brick walkways, differ between older and young healthy adults? Methods A motion-capture system collected kinematic data from walking trials on flat and uneven walkways in seventeen older (72.0 ± 4.2 years) and eighteen younger (27.0 ± 4.7 years) healthy adults. Continuous relative phase analyses were performed for the Knee-Hip and Ankle-Knee joint pairs. Mean Absolute Relative Phase (MARP) quantified coordination amplitude. Deviation Phase (DP) quantified coordinative variability. Two-way mixed ANOVA’s tested for effects of age, surface, and age × surface interactions. Results Uneven surfaces prompted more in-phase MARP inter-joint coordination in adults during most gait phases (p ≤ 0.024). Age × surface interactions were observed during initial contact (Ankle-Knee: p = 0.021, Knee-Hip: p = 0.001) and loading response (Knee-Hip: p = 0.017), with post-hoc analyses showing coordination accentuated in older adults. Uneven surfaces induced higher DP in Knee-Hip (p = 0.017) and Ankle-Knee joint coupling (p < 0.001) during gait, largely independent of age. An age × surface interaction was observed during mid-swing (p = 0.050), with post-hoc analysis revealing increased variability in older adults. Significance More in-phase and variable lower-limb gait behavior was observed on uneven walkways. These differences were accentuated in older adults during early stance phase (more tightly coordinated) and mid-swing (more variable). This may reflect a cautious gait strategy on challenging walkways to maintain stability and help prevent falls.