Sex-specific differences in gait patterns of healthy older adults: results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

Seung-uk Ko, Magdalena I Tolea, Jeffrey M Hausdorff, Luigi Ferrucci
Journal of Biomechanics 2011 July 7, 44 (10): 1974-9
The effects of normal aging and orthopedic conditions on gait patterns during customary walking have been extensively investigated. Empirical evidence supports the notion that sex differences exist in the gait patterns of young adults but it is unclear as to whether sex differences exist in older adults. The aim of this study was to investigate sex-specific differences in gait among older adults. Study participants were 336 adults (50-96 years; 162 women) enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) who completed walking tasks at self-selected speed without assistance. After adjusting for significant covariates, women walked with higher cadence (p=0.01) and shorter stride length (p=0.006) compared to men, while gait speed was not significantly related to sex. Women also had less hip range of motion (ROM; p=0.004) and greater ankle ROM (p<0.001) in the sagittal-plane, and greater hip ROM (p=0.004) in the frontal-plane. Hip absorptive mechanical work expenditure (MWE) of the women was greater in the sagittal-plane (p<0.001) and lower in the frontal-plane (p<0.001), compared to men. In summary, women's gait is characterized by greater ankle ROM than men while men tend to have greater hip ROM than women. Characterizing unique gait patterns of women and men with aging may be beneficial for detecting the early stages of gait abnormalities that may lead to pathology.

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