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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 Mar;86(3):1040-7.

Maturation of gait dynamics: stride-to-stride variability and its temporal organization in children.

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Margret H. A. Rey Laboratory for Nonlinear Dynamics in Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston 02215, Massachusetts, USA.
Harvard U, Cambridge, MA


In very young children, immature control of posture and gait results in unsteady locomotion. In children of approximately 3 yr of age, gait appears relatively mature; however, it is unknown whether the dynamics of walking change beyond this age. Because stride dynamics depend on neural control, we hypothesized that motor control would continue to develop beyond age 3. To test this hypothesis, we measured the gait cycle duration on a stride-by-stride basis in 50 healthy 3- to 14-yr-old children (25 girls). Measurements of stride-to-stride variability were significantly larger both in the 3- and 4-yr-old children, compared with the 6- and 7-yr-old children, and in the 6- and 7-yr-old children, compared with the 11- to 14-yr-old children. Measurements of the temporal organization of gait also revealed significant age-dependent changes. The effects of age persisted even after adjusting for height. These findings indicate that mature stride dynamics may not be completely developed even in healthy 7-yr-old children and that different aspects of stride dynamics mature at different ages.

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