It has frequently been proposed that lowering walking speed is a strategy to enhance gait stability and to decrease the probability of falling. However, previous studies have not been able to establish a clear relation between walking speed and gait stability. We investigated whether people do indeed lower walking speed when gait stability is challenged, and whether this reduces the probability of falling. Nine healthy subjects walked on the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment (CAREN) system, while quasi-random medio-lateral translations of the walking surface were imposed at four different intensities. A self-paced treadmill setting allowed subjects to regulate their walking speed throughout the trials. Walking speed, step length, step frequency, step width, local dynamic stability (LDS), and margins of stability (MoS) were measured. Subjects did not change walking speed in response to the balance perturbations (p=0.118), but made shorter, faster, and wider steps (p<0.01) with increasing perturbation intensity. Subjects became locally less stable in response to the perturbations (p<0.01), but increased their MoS in medio-lateral (p<0.01) and backward (p<0.01) direction. In conclusion, not a lower walking speed, but a combination of decreased step length and increased step frequency and step width seems to be the strategy of choice to cope with medio-lateral balance perturbations, which increases MoS and thus decreases the risk of falling.
Objective: To review the influence of physical capacity on regaining walking ability and the development of walking ability after lower limb amputation. Design: A systematic search of literature was performed. The quality of all relevant studies was evaluated according to a checklist for statistical review of general papers. Subjects: Lower limb amputees. Main measures: Physical capacity (expressed by aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, muscle force, flexibility and balance) and walking ability (expressed by the walking velocity and symmetry). Results: A total of 48 studies that complied with the inclusion criteria were selected. From these studies there is strong evidence for deterioration of two aspects of physical capacity (muscle strength and balance) and of two aspects of walking ability (walking velocity and symmetry) after lower limb amputation. Strong evidence was found for a relation between balance and walking ability. Conclusion: Strong evidence was only found for a relation between balance and walking ability. Evidence about a relation between other elements of physical capacity and walking ability was insufficient. Training of physical capacity as well as walking ability during rehabilitation following lower limb amputation should not be discouraged since several parameters have been shown to be reduced after amputation, although their relation to regaining walking ability and to the development of walking ability remains unclear.
The purpose of the current study was to investigate whether adaptations of stride length, stride frequency, and walking speed, independently influence local dynamic stability and the size of the medio-lateral and backward margins of stability during walking. Nine healthy subjects walked 25 trials on a treadmill at different combinations of stride frequency, stride length, and consequently at different walking speeds. Visual feedback about the required and the actual combination of stride frequency and stride length was given during the trials. Generalized Estimating Equations were used to investigate the independent contribution of stride length, stride frequency, and walking speed on the measures of gait stability. Increasing stride frequency was found to enhance medio-lateral margins of stability. Backward margins of stability became larger as stride length decreased or walking speed increased. For local dynamic stability no significant effects of stride frequency, stride length or walking speed were found. We conclude that adaptations in stride frequency, stride length and/or walking speed can result in an increase of the medio-lateral and backward margins of stability, while these adaptations do not seem to affect local dynamic stability. Gait training focusing on the observed stepping strategies to enhance margins of stability might be a useful contribution to programs aimed at fall prevention.
The objective of this study was to assess the effect of a passive trunk exoskeleton on functional performance for various work related tasks in healthy individuals. 18 healthy men performed 12 tasks. Functional performance in each task was assessed based on objective outcome measures and subjectively in terms of perceived task difficulty, local and general discomfort. Wearing the exoskeleton tended to increase objective performance in static forward bending, but decreased performance in tasks, such as walking, carrying and ladder climbing. A significant decrease was found in perceived task difficulty and local discomfort in the back in static forward bending, but a significant increase of perceived difficulty in several other tasks, like walking, squatting and wide standing. Especially tasks that involved hip flexion were perceived more difficult with the exoskeleton. Design improvements should include provisions to allow full range of motion of hips and trunk to increase versatility and user acceptance.
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