Running Mechanics and Variability with Aging

Julia Freedman Silvernail, Katherine Boyer, Eric Rohr, Gert-Peter Brüggemann, Joseph Hamill
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2015, 47 (10): 2175-80

INTRODUCTION: As the elderly population in the United States continues to grow, issues related to maintenance of health become increasingly important. Physical activity has positive benefits for healthy aging. Running, a popular form of exercise, is associated with the risk of developing injury, especially in older runners. Initial differences between older and younger runners have been observed, but these were observed without consideration of other differences between groups, such as running mileage.

PURPOSE: This study aims to compare running mechanics and lower-extremity coordination variability in matched groups of healthy younger and healthy older runners.

METHODS: Three-dimensional kinetics and kinematics were collected while 14 older adults (45-65 yr) and younger adults (18-35 yr) ran overground at 3.5 m·s. Knee, ankle, and hip joint angles and moments were determined. Discrete measures at foot strike (maximum and minimum) were determined and compared between groups. Segment angles during stance were utilized to calculate segment coordination variability between pelvis and thigh, thigh and shank, and shank and foot, using a modified vector coding technique.

RESULTS: Knee and ankle joint angles were similar between groups (P > 0.05). Older runners had greater hip range of motion (P = 0.01) and peak hip flexion (P = 0.001) at a more extended hip position than younger runners. Older runners had smaller ankle plantarflexion moment (P = 0.04) and hip rotational moment (P = 0.005) than younger runners. There were no between-group differences in any of the variability measures (P > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Runners appear to maintain movement patterns and variability during running with increasing age, indicating that running itself may be contributing to maintenance of health among older runners in the current study.

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