Lower extremity physical performance and use of compensatory strategies for mobility

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006 Feb;54(2):262-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.00588.x.


Objectives: To compare measured lower extremity physical performance in the clinic with the methods used to carry out mobility tasks at home and to identify key factors influencing day-to-day task performance.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of the Women's Health and Aging Study I.

Setting: Community-dwelling female residents of Baltimore, Maryland.

Participants: One thousand two cognitively intact women aged 65 and older with moderate to severe physical limitations.

Measurements: Compensatory strategies reportedly used for mobility in the home, distinguishing between use of no compensatory strategies, behavioral changes only, durable medical equipment (DME) with or without behavioral change, and human help; measured lower extremity (LE) physical performance (gait speed, timed chair stands, balance).

Results: There was a statistically significant difference in LE physical performance between women using the four types of compensatory strategy (P < .001). Women who used DME for mobility in the home had worse performance than those using human help who in turn had worse performance than those with behavioral changes only; women reporting no compensatory strategies for in-home mobility performed best. Sequential multivariate logistic regressions identified several factors other than LE physical performance that were associated with use of specific compensatory strategies. Medical conditions, education, and environmental barriers influenced whether compensatory strategies were used at all, whereas income, contact with health providers, and availability of help in the home influenced the type of compensatory strategy.

Conclusion: Physical abilities are an important factor influencing use of compensatory strategies for mobility, but several other factors also influence the ways that women adapt to mobility limitations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Mobility Limitation