A comparison of two walking while talking paradigms in aging

Gait Posture. 2014 Jul;40(3):415-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.05.062. Epub 2014 Jun 11.


Background: Our study aimed to [1] compare dual-task costs in gait and cognitive performance during two dual-task paradigms: walking while reciting alternate letters of the alphabet (WWR) and walking while counting backward by sevens (WWC); [2] examine the relationship between the gait and cognitive interference tasks when performed concurrently.

Scope: Gait and cognitive performance were tested in 217 non-demented older adults (mean age 76 ± 8.8 years; 56.2% female) under single and dual-task conditions. Velocity (cm/s) was obtained using an instrumented walkway. Cognitive performance was assessed using accuracy ratio: [correct responses]/[total responses]. Linear mixed effects models revealed significant dual-task costs, with slower velocity (p < .01) and decreased accuracy ratio (p < .01) in WWR and WWC compared to their respective single task conditions. Greater dual-task costs in velocity (p < .01) were observed in WWC compared to WWR. Pearson correlations revealed significant and positive relationships between gait and cognitive performance in WWR and WWC (p < .01); increased accuracy ratio was associated with faster velocity.

Conclusions: Our findings suggested that dual-task costs in gait increase as the complexity of the cognitive task increases. Furthermore, the positive association between the gait and cognitive tasks suggest that dual-task performance was not influenced by task prioritization strategies in this sample.

Keywords: Attention; Dual-task; Elderly; Walking; Walking while talking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Software
  • Speech*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Walking / physiology*