Does walking strategy in older people change as a function of walking distance?

Bijan Najafi, Jorunn L Helbostad, Rolf Moe-Nilssen, Wiebren Zijlstra, Kamiar Aminian
Gait & Posture 2009, 29 (2): 261-6
This study investigates whether the spatio-temporal parameters of gait in the elderly vary as a function of walking distance. The gait pattern of older subjects (n=27) over both short (SWD<10 m) and long (LWD>20 m) walking was evaluated using an ambulatory device consisting of body-worn sensors (Physilog). The stride velocity (SV), gait cycle time (GCT), and inter-cycle variability of each parameter (CV) were evaluated for each subject. Analysis was undertaken after evaluating the errors and the test-retest reliability of the Physilog device compared with an electronic walkway system (GaitRite) over the SWD with different walking speeds. While both systems were highly reliable with respect to the SV and GCT parameters (ICC>0.82), agreement for the gait variability was poor. Interestingly, our data revealed that the measured gait parameters over SWD and LWD were significantly different. LWD trials had a mean increase of 5.2% (p<0.05) in SV, and a mean decrease of 3.7% (p<0.05) in GCT compared with SWD trials. Although variability in both the SV and GCT measured during LWD trials decreased by an average of 1% relative to the SWD case, the drop was not significant. Moreover, reliability for gait variability measures was poor, irrespective of the instrument and despite a moderate improvement for LWD trials. Taken together, our findings indicate that for valid and reliable comparisons, test and retest should be performed under identical distance conditions. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the older subjects may choose different walking strategies for SWD and LWD conditions.

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