Upper body accelerations during walking in healthy young and elderly men

Gait Posture. 2004 Dec;20(3):291-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2003.10.004.


The purpose of the present study was to assess whether any differences existed in the upper body accelerations of young and elderly subjects during natural speed walking. Head and trunk accelerations in eight young subjects (aged 23+/-4 years) and eight healthy elderly subjects (aged 74+/-3 years) were measured during level walking on a 20 m walkway using a pair of tri-axial accelerometers. Heel contact and toe-off events were determined using a footswitch system embedded in the innersole of the right shoe. Gait measures assessed included; stride, stance and swing durations, cadence, gait velocity, step length and 3D head and trunk accelerations. All acceleration variables were normalised to walking speed before statistical analysis. The main findings of this study were: (1) the peak positive anterior-posterior (AP) trunk acceleration associated with push-off was significantly lower for elderly subjects, (2) the peak negative AP head and trunk accelerations following heel contact was significantly higher for elderly subjects, and (3) the time delay between trunk and head accelerations experienced in the AP direction was significantly lower for the elderly compared to the young group. Together, these results suggest that elderly subjects exhibit different patterns of upper body motion in the direction of travel compared to younger subjects. These differences are probably motivated by the need to maximise dynamic stability during critical parts of the gait cycle.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Upper Extremity / physiology
  • Walking / physiology*