Age causes a redistribution of joint torques and powers during gait

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 May;88(5):1804-11. doi: 10.1152/jappl.2000.88.5.1804.


At self-selected walking speeds, elderly compared with young adults generate decreased joint torques and powers in the lower extremity. These differences may be actual gait-limiting factors and neuromuscular adaptations with age or simply a consciously selected motor pattern to produce a slower gait. The purpose of the study was to compare joint torques and powers of young and elderly adults walking at the same speed. Twelve elderly and fourteen young adults (ages 69 and 21 yr) walked at 1.48 m/s over a force platform while being videotaped. Hip, knee, and ankle torques and powers were calculated from the reaction force and kinematic data. A support torque was calculated as the sum of the three joint torques. Extensor angular impulse during stance and positive work at each joint were derived from the torques and powers. Step length was 4% shorter and cadence was 4% higher in elderly adults (both P < 0.05) compared with young adults. Support angular impulse was nearly identical between groups, but elderly adults had 58% greater angular impulse and 279% more work at the hip, 50% less angular impulse and 39% less work at the knee, and 23% less angular impulse and 29% less work at the ankle compared with young adults (t-test, all P < 0.05). Age caused a redistribution of joint torques and powers, with the elderly using their hip extensors more and their knee extensors and ankle plantar flexors less than young adults when walking at the same speed. Along with a reduction in motor and sensory functions, the natural history of aging causes a shift in the locus of function in motor performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Torque