Walking Stability and Risk of Falls

Bioengineering (Basel). 2023 Apr 12;10(4):471. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering10040471.


Walking stability is considered a necessary physical performance for preserving independence and preventing falls. The current study investigated the correlation between walking stability and two clinical markers for falling risk. Principal component analysis (PCA) was applied to extract the three-dimensional (3D) lower-limb kinematic data of 43 healthy older adults (69.8 ± 8.5 years, 36 females) into a set of principal movements (PMs), showing different movement components/synergies working together to accomplish the walking task goal. Then, the largest Lyapunov exponent (LyE) was applied to the first five PMs as a measure of stability, with the interpretation that the higher the LyE, the lower the stability of individual movement components. Next, the fall risk was determined using two functional motor tests-a Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) and a Gait Subscale of Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA-G)-of which the higher the test score, the better the performance. The main results show that SPPB and POMA-G scores negatively correlate with the LyE seen in specific PMs (p ≤ 0.009), indicating that increasing walking instability increases the fall risk. The current findings suggest that inherent walking instability should be considered when assessing and training the lower limbs to reduce the risk of falling.

Keywords: gait; largest Lyapunov exponent (LyE); movement synergy; neuromuscular control; overground walking; principal component analysis (PCA).