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SUMMARY: slower older walkers

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  • SUMMARY: slower older walkers

    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

    ************************************************** **

    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
    ************************************************** **************


    ************************************************** *********************

    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: or

    ************************************************** ************************


    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

    ************************************************** ************************
    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

    ************************************************** ************************

    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

    ************************************************** ************************

    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

    ************************************************** ************************

    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, 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 /\/ \ __ _\