Older adults commonly walk slower, which many believe helps improve their walking stability. However, they remain at increased risk of falls. We investigated how differences in age and walking speed independently affect dynamic stability during walking, and how age-related changes in leg strength and ROM affected this relationship. Eighteen active healthy older and 17 younger adults walked on a treadmill for 5 minutes each at each of 5 speeds (80–120% of preferred). Local divergence exponents and maximum Floquet multipliers (FM) were calculated to quantify each subject’s responses to small inherent perturbations during walking. These older adults exhibited the same preferred walking speeds as the younger subjects (p = 0.860). However, these older adults still exhibited greater local divergence exponents (p<0.0001) and higher maximum FM (p<0.007) than young adults at all walking speeds. These older adults remained more unstable (p<0.04) even after adjusting for declines in both strength and ROM. In both age groups, local divergence exponents decreased at slower speeds and increased at faster speeds (p<0.0001). Maximum FM showed similar changes with speed (p<0.02). The older adults in this study were healthy enough to walk at normal speeds. However, these adults were still more unstable than the young adults, independent of walking speed. This greater instability was not explained by loss of leg strength and ROM. Slower speeds led to decreased instability in both groups.

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