Effect of age on anticipatory postural adjustments in unilateral arm movement

Gait Posture. 2006 Oct;24(2):203-10. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2005.09.001. Epub 2005 Oct 4.


Aging is frequently accompanied by a deterioration in postural control. Accordingly, the elderly adopt postural strategies in order to maintain balance. The purpose of this study was to compare anticipatory postural adjustments in (healthy) 10 young and 10 elderly subjects using electromyography (EMG) and biomechanical parameters. While standing on a force platform, subjects performed voluntary, arm-raising movements under five conditions: self-paced at three different velocities, self-paced with load and an externally triggered, both at maximal velocity. The force platform provided information on vertical torque (T(z)) and center of pressure anteroposterior displacements (COP). EMG activity was recorded from the biceps femoris, quadriceps, tibialis anterior and soleus muscles. Voluntary movements were associated with an early COP backward shift and an anticipatory T(z). At low velocity, elderly subjects did not show any impairment in stability. At maximal velocity, T(z) was delayed in all conditions in the elderly group, whereas COP latency was reduced only in the self-paced condition without load. Despite this decrease in anticipation, the movement was performed at the same velocity as in younger subjects. The elderly adopted various muscle strategies in order to perform the same movement with less stability. In the self-paced condition, elderly subjects used a hip strategy, whereas young subjects used an ankle strategy. In the triggered condition, the strategy corresponded to increased activation of certain thigh muscles, rather than a sequence modification. Hence, local muscle strategies were used to counteract the overall delay in postural preparation revealed by biomechanical parameters.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology