The impact of outdoor walking surfaces on lower-limb coordination and variability during gait in healthy adults
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofGait and posture
Background Inter-joint coordination and variability during gait provide insight into control and adaptability of the neuromuscular system. To date, coordination research has been restricted to laboratory settings, and it is unclear how these findings translate to real-world, outdoor walking environments. Research Question Compared to flat walking, to what extent do outdoor surfaces impact lower-limb inter-joint coordination and variability during gait, in healthy adults? Methods Data from inertial measurement units placed on the lower-back, thigh, and shank were extracted from thirty healthy young adults (15 females, 23.5 ± 4.2 years) during outdoor walking on flat (paved sidewalk); irregular (cobblestone, grass); sloped (slope-up, slope-down); and banked (banked-right, banked-left) surfaces. Sagittal joint angles for the right knee and hip were computed and partitioned by gait phase (stance and swing). Continuous Relative Phase analysis determined inter-joint coordination and variability for the knee-hip joint pair using Mean Absolute Relative Phase (MARP) and Deviation Phase (DP), respectively. One-way repeated measures ANOVAs tested surface effects. Post-hoc Bonferroni adjusted surface comparisons were assessed. Results Significant knee-hip surface effects were seen during all gait phases for MARP (p < 0.001) and DP (p ≤ 0.001). Compared to flat walking, grass prompted more in-phase coordination (smaller MARP) during stance and swing phase (p ≤ 0.003). Slope-up caused more in-phase coordination during stance (p < 0.001), while slope-down caused more out-of-phase coordination during stance and swing (p ≤ 0.003), compared to the flat surface. Sloped surfaces prompted more variable (larger DP) knee-hip coordination (p ≤ 0.001), compared to flat walking during stance and swing phase. Significance Compared to flat walking, changes in knee-hip coordination and variability were greatest on slope-up/slope-down surfaces. This could reflect greater changes in lower-limb kinematics on sloped surfaces and/or a neuromuscular response to the demands of a more challenging task.