Background: Most of older adults’ falls are related to inefficient balance recovery after an unexpected loss of balance, i.e., postural perturbation. Effective balance recovery responses are crucial to prevent falls. Due to the considerable consequences of lateral falls and the high incidence of falls when walking, this study aimed to examine the effect of a concurrent cognitive task on older adults’ balance recovery stepping abilities from unannounced lateral perturbations while walking. We also aimed to explore whether cognitive performance accuracy is affected by perturbed walking and between task trade-offs. Methods: In a laboratory-based study, 20 older adults (> 70 years old) performed the following test conditions: (1) cognitive task while sitting; (2) perturbed walking; and (3) perturbed walking with a concurrent cognitive task. The cognitive task was serial numbers subtraction by seven. Single-step and multiple-step thresholds, highest perturbation achieved, 3D kinematic analysis of the first recovery step, and cognitive task performance accuracy were compared between single-task and dual-task conditions. Between task trade-offs were examined using dual-task cost (DTC). Results: Single-step and multiple-step thresholds, number of recovery step trials, number of foot collision, multiple-step events and kinematic recovery step parameters were all similar in single-task and dual-task conditions. Cognitive performance was not significantly affected by dual-task conditions, however, different possible trade-offs between cognitive and postural performances were identified using DTC. Conclusions: In situations where postural threat is substantial, such as unexpected balance loss during walking, balance recovery reactions were unaffected by concurrent cognitive load in older adults (i.e., posture first strategy). The study was approved by the Helsinki Ethics Committee of Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel (ClinicalTrials.gov Registration number NCT04455607, ID Numbers: Sor 396–16 CTIL; 02/07/2020).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology