JOURNAL ARTICLE

Kinematic variability, fractal dynamics and local dynamic stability of treadmill walking

Philippe Terrier, Olivier Dériaz
Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation 2011, 8: 12
21345241

BACKGROUND: Motorized treadmills are widely used in research or in clinical therapy. Small kinematics, kinetics and energetics changes induced by Treadmill Walking (TW) as compared to Overground Walking (OW) have been reported in literature. The purpose of the present study was to characterize the differences between OW and TW in terms of stride-to-stride variability. Classical (Standard Deviation, SD) and non-linear (fractal dynamics, local dynamic stability) methods were used. In addition, the correlations between the different variability indexes were analyzed.

METHODS: Twenty healthy subjects performed 10 min TW and OW in a random sequence. A triaxial accelerometer recorded trunk accelerations. Kinematic variability was computed as the average SD (MeanSD) of acceleration patterns among standardized strides. Fractal dynamics (scaling exponent α) was assessed by Detrended Fluctuation Analysis (DFA) of stride intervals. Short-term and long-term dynamic stability were estimated by computing the maximal Lyapunov exponents of acceleration signals.

RESULTS: TW did not modify kinematic gait variability as compared to OW (multivariate T(2), p=0.87). Conversely, TW significantly modified fractal dynamics (t-test, p=0.01), and both short and long term local dynamic stability (T(2) p=0.0002). No relationship was observed between variability indexes with the exception of significant negative correlation between MeanSD and dynamic stability in TW (3 × 6 canonical correlation, r=0.94).

CONCLUSIONS: Treadmill induced a less correlated pattern in the stride intervals and increased gait stability, but did not modify kinematic variability in healthy subjects. This could be due to changes in perceptual information induced by treadmill walking that would affect locomotor control of the gait and hence specifically alter non-linear dependencies among consecutive strides. Consequently, the type of walking (i.e. treadmill or overground) is important to consider in each protocol design.

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