COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Healthy older adults have insufficient hip range of motion and plantar flexor strength to walk like healthy young adults

Dennis E Anderson, Michael L Madigan
Journal of Biomechanics 2014 March 21, 47 (5): 1104-9
24461576
Limited plantar flexor strength and hip extension range of motion (ROM) in older adults are believed to underlie common age-related differences in gait. However, no studies of age-related differences in gait have quantified the percentage of strength and ROM used during gait. We examined peak hip angles, hip torques and plantar flexor torques, and corresponding estimates of functional capacity utilized (FCU), which we define as the percentage of available strength or joint ROM used, in 10 young and 10 older healthy adults walking under self-selected and controlled (slow and fast) conditions. Older adults walked with about 30% smaller hip extension angle, 28% larger hip flexion angle, 34% more hip extensor torque in the slow condition, and 12% less plantar flexor torque in the fast condition than young adults. Older adults had higher FCU than young adults for hip flexion angle (47% vs. 34%) and hip extensor torque (48% vs. 27%). FCUs for plantar flexor torque (both age groups) and hip extension angle (older adults in all conditions; young adults in self-selected gait) were not significantly <100%, and were higher than for other measures examined. Older adults lacked sufficient hip extension ROM to walk with a hip extension angle as large as that of young adults. Similarly, in the fast gait condition older adults lacked the strength to match the plantar flexor torque produced by young adults. This supports the hypothesis that hip extension ROM and plantar flexor strength are limiting factors in gait and contribute to age-related differences in gait.

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