Age- and speed-related differences in harmonic ratios during walking

K A Lowry, N Lokenvitz, A L Smiley-Oyen
Gait & Posture 2012, 35 (2): 272-6
Harmonic ratios (HRs), derived from trunk accelerations, measure smoothness of trunk motion during gait; higher ratios indicate greater smoothness. Previous research indicates that young adults optimize HRs at preferred pace, exhibiting reduced HRs at speeds faster and slower than preferred. Recent studies examining HRs and other trunk acceleration measures challenge this finding. The purpose of this study was to examine age-related differences in HRs across a range of self-selected overground walking speeds. Anteroposterior (AP), vertical (VT), and mediolateral (ML) HRs were examined in 13 young adults (ages 20-23), 13 healthy older adults (ages 60-69), and 13 healthy old-old adults (ages 80-86) while walking overground at very slow, slow, preferred, fast, and very fast speeds. Young and older adults exhibited similar HRs in all directions of motion across speeds, while old-old adults exhibited lower AP- and VT-HRs. All groups exhibited reduced HRs at speeds slower than preferred. However, there were no differences in HRs between preferred and faster speeds, with the exception of reduced VT-HRs in the very fast condition for the older groups. The ML-HR was not different between groups, and varied less across speeds. Stride time variability exhibited inverse relations with, and independently contributed to, HRs across speeds; lower stride time variability was associated with greater smoothness of trunk motion. Older groups were not disproportionately affected by walking more slowly and smoothness of trunk motion did not show a clear pattern of optimization at preferred pace for any group.

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