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Gait Posture. 2005 Apr;21(3):279-88.

Age and walking speed effects on muscle recruitment in gait termination.

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Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.


During gait termination at normal walking speed, older adults more frequently employ two-step responses, increasing their stopping distance and stopping time more than younger controls. This study investigated ageing effects on lower limb muscle recruitment patterns during stopping at three walking speeds. Twelve young male (26 +/- 3.7 years, range 19-30) and 12 gender-matched older participants (72 +/- 4.3 years, range 65-82) terminated walking at normal, medium and maximum speed. A visual stopping stimulus was presented 10 ms following either left or right heel-contact with no stimulus (catch) on 30% of trials. Electromyographic (EMG) activity was recorded from the tibialis anterior (TA), soleus (SOL), biceps femoris (BF), vastus lateralis (VL) and gluteus medius (GM). Older males more frequently (46% of trials) took two-steps to stop than young males (20%). The stance leg muscles responded significantly faster than the swing leg, and with increased speed, fewer swing limb muscles contributed to stopping. Older males were slower to respond with the stance leg, at 215 ms following the stimulus compared with 176 ms for the younger group. They also recruited fewer swing leg muscles with less frequent activation of the soleus and gluteus medius. Failure to activate muscles would provide less extensor torque to maintain the centre of gravity anterior to the forward base of support. This would decrease the total force opposing horizontal velocity in order to bring the body to rest and, as a consequence, encourage an additional step prior to stopping.

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