Relation between aerobic capacity and walking ability in older adults with a lower-limb amputation

Daphne Wezenberg, Lucas H van der Woude, Willemijn X Faber, Arnold de Haan, Han Houdijk
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2013, 94 (9): 1714-20

OBJECTIVES: To determine the relative aerobic load, walking speed, and walking economy of older adults with a lower-limb prosthesis, and to predict the effect of an increased aerobic capacity on their walking ability.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: Human motion laboratory at a rehabilitation center.

PARTICIPANTS: Convenience sample of older adults (n=36) who underwent lower-limb amputation because of vascular deficiency or trauma and able-bodied controls (n=21).

INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Peak aerobic capacity and oxygen consumption while walking were determined. The relative aerobic load and walking economy were assessed as a function of walking speed, and a data-based model was constructed to predict the effect of an increased aerobic capacity on walking ability.

RESULTS: People with a vascular amputation walked at a substantially higher (45.2%) relative aerobic load than people with an amputation because of trauma. The preferred walking speed in both groups of amputees was slower than that of able-bodied controls and below their most economical walking speed. We predicted that a 10% increase in peak aerobic capacity could potentially result in a reduction in the relative aerobic load of 9.1%, an increase in walking speed of 17.3% and 13.9%, and an improvement in the walking economy of 6.8% and 2.9%, for people after a vascular or traumatic amputation, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Current findings corroborate the notion that, especially in people with a vascular amputation, the peak aerobic capacity is an important determinant for walking ability. The data provide quantitative predictions on the effect of aerobic training; however, future research is needed to experimentally confirm these predictions.

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