Age-related differences in spatiotemporal markers of gait stability during dual task walking

John H Hollman, Francine M Kovash, Jared J Kubik, Rachel A Linbo
Gait & Posture 2007, 26 (1): 113-9
Increased stride-to-stride variability during walking characterizes gait instability and predicts falling in older adults. Walking while performing cognitive tasks (dual task walking) is also associated with increased risk of falling. The purpose of the study was to examine whether gait velocity and stride-to-stride variability in gait velocity differ in older adults compared with middle-aged and younger adults during normal and dual task walking conditions. Sixty older (n=20, mean age=81 years), middle-aged (n=20, mean age=48 years), and young adults (n=20, mean age=25 years) participated in the study. Gait parameters were quantified with GAITRite instrumentation. In the dual task condition, participants spelled five-letter words in reverse while walking across the walkway. Across groups, gait velocity was slower (p<0.001) and stride-to-stride variability in gait velocity was greater (p=0.001) in dual task walking. Older subjects walked more slowly than did middle-aged and younger subjects and the difference in gait velocity was greatest in the dual task condition (p<0.05). Variability in stride velocity was increased in older subjects compared with middle-aged and younger subjects (p<0.05). Additionally, in older subjects, impaired walking performance was associated with impaired cognitive performance in dual task walking. The gait changes observed in dual task walking characterize decreased gait stability and indicate that cognitively demanding tasks during walking have a destabilizing effect on gait and may place older people at a greater risk of falling.

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