Effects of age on rapid ankle torque development

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1996 Sep;51(5):M226-32. doi: 10.1093/gerona/51a.5.m226.


Background: When balance is disturbed, often only fractions of a second are available in which to make the initial responses needed for its restoration. Abilities to develop joint torques rapidly may be critical to such responses. We undertook this study to quantify age effects among healthy adults in abilities to develop ankle joint torques rapidly.

Methods: Ankle dorsiflexion (DF) and plantarflexion (PF) torque development during rapid isometric and during isokinetic (30, 60, 120, 180, and 240 deg/sec) exertions was assessed in 24 healthy young (mean age 23 years) and 24 healthy old adults (mean age 72 years). The effects of age, gender, and torque direction on the times needed to reach given torque magnitudes, maximum rates of isometric torque development (MRTD), and maximum isokinetic torques were examined.

Results: The old adults required substantially more time to reach given torque magnitudes than the young adults. For example, the young and old females needed approximately 236 and 337 msec to develop 15 Nm of DF torque, of which 141 and 164 msec were reaction times. Isometric MRTD were 25 to 36% lower in the old than in the young adults. The age declines in isometric torque development time were associated with losses in maximum isometric strength. Maximum isokinetic torques developed by the old were 20 to 40% lower than those of young adults. The percent losses in isokinetic torques with age were independent of joint angular velocity for PF, but increased with velocity for DF.

Conclusions: We found substantial age declines in abilities of healthy old adults to rapidly develop ankle joint torques. The capacities of even healthy old adults to recover balance or to carry out other time-critical actions that require moderate-to-substantial strengths may be considerably degraded by these declines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Reaction Time
  • Reference Values