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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2007 Sep;62(9):983-8.

Gait variability and the risk of incident mobility disability in community-dwelling older adults.

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Department of Physical Therapy, University of Pittsburgh, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Epidemiology, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.



Gait speed is a strong predictor of incident walking disability. The objective was to determine if gait variability adds to the prediction of incident mobility disability independent of gait speed.


Participants included 379 older adults (mean age = 79 years; 78% Caucasian, and 40% men) in the Cardiovascular Health Study at the Pittsburgh site. All could ambulate independently and reported no difficulty walking a half mile. Gait characteristics were determined from a 4-meter computerized walkway. For each gait parameter, variability was defined as the standard deviation from the individual steps from two passes. Incident walking disability was obtained by phone interview every 6 months for 54 months and was defined as new difficulty walking a half mile or inability to walk a half mile.


Of the 379 participants, 222 (58.6%) developed incident mobility disability. In unadjusted Cox proportional hazards models gait speed, mean step length, mean stance time, and stance time variability were associated with incident mobility disability. After adjusting for gait speed, demographics, chronic conditions, prescription medications, health status, and physical activity level, only stance time variability remained an important indicator of disability. In the adjusted model, an increase in stance time variability of 0.01 seconds was associated with a 13% higher incidence of mobility disability (hazard ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.27).


Stance time variability is an independent predictor of future mobility disability. Future efforts are needed to determine whether interventions that decrease stance time variability will also delay mobility disability.

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