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Effects of prolonged brisk walking induced lower limb muscle fatigue on the changes of gait parameters in older adults.

Gait & Posture 2023 Februrary 16
BACKGROUND: Lower extremity muscle fatigue affects gait stability and increases the probability of injuries in the elderly.

RESEARCH QUESTION: How does prolonged walking-induced fatigue affect lower limb muscle activity, plantar pressure distribution, and tripping risk?

METHODS: Eighteen elderly adults walked fast on a treadmill for 60 minutes at a fixed speed. The plantar pressure was measured with an in-shoe monitoring system, eight lower limb muscles were monitored using surface electromyography, and foot movements were tracked by a motion capture analysis system. The above data and participants' subjective fatigue level feedback were collected every 5 minutes. Statistical analysis used the Friedman one-way repeated measures analysis of variance by ranks test followed by Wilcoxon signed-ranks test with Benjamini-Hochberg stepwise correction.

RESULTS: The subjective reported fatigue on the Borg scale increased gradually from 1 to 6 (p = 0.001) during the 60 minutes, while the EMG amplitude of vastus medialis significant decreased (p = 0.013). The results of plantar pressure demonstrated that the distribution of load and impulse shifted medially in both the heel and arch regions while shifted laterally in both the toes and metatarsal regions. The significantly increased contact area supports this shift at the medial arch (p = 0.036, increased by 6.94%, the 60th minute vs. the baseline). The symmetry of medial-lateral plantar force increased at the toes, metatarsal, and arch regions. The significantly increased parameters also include the swing time and contact time. The minimum foot clearance was reduced, increasing tripping probability, not significantly, though.

SIGNIFICANCE: This study facilitates a better understanding of changes in lower limb muscle activity and gait parameters during prolonged fast walking. Besides, this study has good guiding significance for developing smart devices based on plantar force, inertial measurement units, and EMG sensors to monitor changes in muscle activation in real-time and prevent tripping.

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