The ability to transfer weight from one lower limb to the other is essential for the execution of daily life activities and little is known about how weight transfer during unconstrained natural standing is affected by age. This study examined the weight transfer ability of elderly individuals during unconstrained standing (for 30 min) in comparison to young adults. The subjects (19 healthy elderly adults, range 65-80 years, and 19 healthy young adults, range 18-30 years) stood with each foot on a separate force plate and were allowed to change their posture freely at any time. The limits of stability and base of support width during standing, measures of mobility (using the timed up and go and the preferred walking speed tests), and fear of falling were also measured. In comparison to the young adults, during unconstrained standing the elderly adults produced four times fewer weight transfers of large amplitude (greater than half of their body weight). The limits of stability and base of support width were significantly smaller for the elderly adults but there were no significant differences in the measures of mobility and in the fear of falling score compared to young adults. The observed significant age-related decrease in the use of weight transfer during unconstrained standing, despite any difference in the measured mobility of the subjects, suggests that this task reveals unnoticed and subtle differences in postural control, which may help to better understand age related impairments in balance that the elderly population experiences.
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