Age-related mechanical work expenditure during normal walking: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

Seung uk Ko, Shari M Ling, Joshua Winters, Luigi Ferrucci
Journal of Biomechanics 2009 August 25, 42 (12): 1834-9
The aim of this cross-sectional study was to delineate age-associated kinematic and kinetic gait patterns of normal walking, and to test the hypothesis that older adults exhibit gait patterns that reduce generative mechanical work expenditures (MWEs). We studied 52 adult Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging participants (means age 72+/-9, from 60 to 92 years) who could walk 4m unaided. Three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic parameters assessed during rotation-defined gait periods were used to estimate MWEs for the rotation of lower extremities about the medial-lateral (ML) and anterior-posterior (AP) axes of proximal joints, which represent MWEs in the AP and ML sides, respectively. Relationships between gait parameters and age were examined using regression analysis with adjustments for walking speed, sex, height, and weight. Older age was associated with slower self-selected walking speed (p<0.001), shorter stride length (p<0.001), and greater propensity of landing flat-footed (p=0.003). With older age, hip generative MWE for thigh rotation was lower about the AP axis (hip abduction and adduction) during stance (p=0.010) and higher about the ML axis (hip extension and flexion) during late stance (p<0.001). Knee absorptive MWE for shank rotation about the AP axis (knee abduction and adduction) during early stance was also lower with older age (p<0.003). These age-related gait patterns may represent a compensatory effort to maintain balance and may also reflect mobility limitations.

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