Age-associated gait patterns and the role of lower extremity strength - results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

Seung-uk Ko, Sari Stenholm, E Jeffrey Metter, Luigi Ferrucci
Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 2012, 55 (2): 474-9
The aim of the present study was to examine differences in gait characteristics across the adult lifespan and to test the hypothesis that such differences are attributable at least in part to the decline in muscle strength. The data presented here are from 190 participants of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) aged from 32 to 93 years. Based on two age thresholds that best capture the effect of age on walking speed, participants were divided into three age groups: middle-age (32-57 years; N=27), old-age (58-78 years; N=125), and oldest-age (79-93 years; N=38). Participants were asked to walk at their preferred and maximum speeds while recorded with 3D gait analysis system. In addition, maximum isokinetic knee extensor strength was assessed. While walking at preferred speed, range of motion (ROM) and mechanical work expenditure (MWE) of the ankle were lower within middle-age (p<0.001, p=0.047, respectively), while hip ROM and MWE were lower (p=0.006) and higher (p<0.001), respectively within oldest-age with older age. Deterioration in ankle function during customary walking initiates already at middle-age. Differences in the maximum walking speed and ankle ROM between middle-age and old-age were explained by knee strength.

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