View Full Version : SUMMARY: slower older walkers

Cheng Cao
04-21-1998, 09:40 PM
Dear Biomechanists:

I posted a topic for discussion a couple of days ago on slower gait speed
of older adults. Thanks the following responses and all of your interests.
A few listed replys were not directly sent to me, but I feel they are relevant
to the topic and valueable for the discussion.

In my own summary, despite there are many possible reasons for older adults to
walk slower, I tried to group them into two big categories:

. wise enough to know that walking faster will not change anything
. careful stepping due to slowing of reflexes
. coutious
. afraid of road harzards
. afraid of falls due to osteoporosis
. reduced abilities to maintain dynamic balance
. decreased joint Range of Motion
. reduced muscle strength and power
. reduced contents of fast-switch muscle fibre
. joint or muscular pathologies
. reduced abilities to maintain dynamic balance

I feel that "BALANCE" could belong to either category.

The above summary is just my own and current understanding. It may not be right.

Again, thank you for your interests.


Cheng Cao, Ph.D.
The University of Michigan

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On Mon, 20 Apr 1998, cheng cao wrote:

> Older adults tend to walk slower. There maybe many explanations. But
> there are three most likely sources:
> 1. weaker muscle strength and could not walk faster
> 2. afraid of road hazards and prefer to walk slower
> 3. walk slower so as to reduce effort
> Are there other sources? Which one do you think is one? Any published
> paper on this topic? Thanks.
> Cheng
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From: perry@srcl.sunnybrook.utoronto.ca

Dear Cheng

There has been quite extensive research on gait and older adults.

1. Maki BE. Gait changes in older adults: predictors of falls or
indicators of fear? J Amer Geriat Soc 1997;45(3):313-320.

2. Kaneko M, Morimoto Y, Fuchimoto K, Fuchimoto T. A kinematic
analysis of walking and physical fitness testing in elderly women.
Canadian Journal of Sports Science 1991;16(3):223-228.

3. Judge JO, Underwood M, Gennosa MS. Exercise to improve gait
velocity in older persons. Archives of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation 1993;74:400-406.

4. Gillis B, Gilroy K, Lawley H, Mott L, Wall JC. Slow walking
in healthy young and elderly females. Physiotherapy Canada

5. Gabell A, Nayak USL. The effect of age on variability in
Journal of Gerontology 1984;39:662-666.

Hope these example references are helpful and the first paper
includes a more extensive list of current references.

Good Luck
__________________________________________________ __________________
Stephen D. Perry, MSc
Research Biomechanist, PhD Candidate
Centre for Studies In Aging
Sunnybrook Health Science Centre
Toronto, Ontario M4N 3M5
Work Tel: (416) 480-5858
Fax: (416) 480-5856
e-mail: s.perry@utoronto.ca or perry@srcl.sunnybrook.utoronto.ca
WWW: http://www.sunnybrook.utoronto.ca:8080/~csia/gen_info/perry.html

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From: Jean-Francois.Benvenuti@epfl.ch

Hello Cheng:
What do you think of:
4.wise enough to know that walking faster will not change anything?

Best regards

Benvenuti Jean-Francois
Laboratoire de Genie Medical
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne
CH-1015 Lausanne Switzerland.
tel: ++41 21 693 83 38
fax: ++41 21 693 83 30

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Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 09:46:22 -0400
From: "M. Meier"
Subject: Slower walking velocity in the elderly
Newsgroups: bit.listserv.biomch-l

Regarding slower walking in elderly:
I agree with Jeff Ives comments that increased joint stiffness in
terms of
"rougher" gliding contributes to slowing down of the elderly's
velocity. However, the decreased joint ROM seems not to have a too
influence, as a full ROM might not be needed during walking.
However pathologies, not only related to joint and muscles, have an
influence on the walking velocity of elderly people.

Margrit Meier, PhD-student
University of Sherbrooke, CA

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From: Mariano Garcia


>1. weaker muscle strength and could not walk faster
>2. afraid of road hazards and prefer to walk slower
>3. walk slower so as to reduce effort

One similar possibility is that many older adults tend
to lose their ability to balance.
Especially, I would think, side-to-side.
So they would want the mechanics of their gait to
provide more side-to-side stability.

One way to do this is to decrese their step period,
and thus decrease the amount that they "fall" sideways
before the next heelstrike provides some supporting

This observation came from studying a passive model
of gait in 3D, very similar to the one that Art Kuo
at at Michigan used (uses?). You should talk to
Art if you haven't already. You might also want
to take a look at the second March 1998 issue of
Science News- there is a short article about this
model and some URL pointers which might be of interest.

Mariano Garcia

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From: Ned Frederick

Don't forget the slowing of reflexes, which tends to promote slower
careful stepping.

Also, I have heard discussion the a general decrease in the quality
sensory input via sight, sound, smell, makes older people more
cautious in
their movements. Just a speculation.

What about the well documented age-related effects on balance?

Ned Frederick

80 Haigh Road
Brentwood, NH 03833
978-664-8900 w
603-772-4689 h

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From: Denise Gobert

Hi BioNetters:

In reponse to the discussion on the slower walking pace of elders I
like to add the following considerations:

1. Neural Slowing--there is a general slowing of the entire nervous
which leads to slower reaction times to any musclar activites. This
reaction time may result in a "speed accuracy trade-off" where the
will move slower to ensure proper foot placements etc.

2. Muscle Type Differential Loss-- there is a also a general overall
of fast twitch muscle types leaving behind a slower muscular system
response to movements. This differential loss could be one of the
reasons why a specific neural stimulus results in a slower response.

A nice over-view of the gait characteristics and possible reasons for
changes can be found in the following references:

1. Bassey, E.J.et al. (1988). Muscle strength in the triceps surae
objectively measured customary walking activity in men and women over
years of age. Clinical Scienc, 74, 85-89.

2. Bendall, MJ et al. (1989). Factors affecting walking speed of
people. Age& Ageing, 18, 327-332.

3. Craik,R. (1990). Changes in locomotion in the aging adult. In
Development of posture and gait across the lifespan, MH Woolacott
and A.
Shumway-Cook (Eds) South Carolina Press.

4. Murray, MP et al. (1969). Walking patterns in healthy old men.
of Gerontology, 24, 169-178.

5. Winter, DA (1991). Changes in gait with aging. Canadian Journal of
Sports Sciences, 16 (3): 165-167)

Hope this helps you in some way. Good Luck in your efforts.


Denise Gobert,M.Ed.,PT
Doctoral Candidate
University of Texas at Austin
Dept of Kinesiology -- /\ ____
& Health Edu. (Bel.222) / \/\ ____ __o
P.O.Box 150213 /\/ \ __ _\