Background: Quick step execution may prevent falls when balance is lost; adding a concurrent task delays this function. We investigate whether push-off force-time relations during the execution of rapid voluntary stepping is affected by a secondary task in older and young adults.
Methods: Nineteen healthy older adults and 12 young adults performed rapid voluntary stepping under single- and dual-task conditions. Peak power, peak force, and time to peak force during preparatory and swing phases of stepping were extracted from center of pressure and ground reaction force data.
Results: For dual-task condition compared with single-task condition, older adults show a longer time to reach peak force during the preparation and swing phases compared with young adults (approximately 25% vs approximately 10%, respectively). Peak power and peak force were not affected by a concurrent attention-demanding task.
Conclusion: Older adults have difficulty allocating sufficient attention for fast muscle recruitment when concurrently challenged by an attention-demanding task.