Healthy walking is characterized by pronounced arm swing and axial rotation. Aging effects on gait speed, stride length and stride time variability have been previously reported, however, less is known about aging effects on arm swing and axial rotation and their relationship to age-associated gait changes during usual walking and during more challenging conditions like dual tasking. Sixty healthy adults between the ages of 30-77 were included in this study designed to address this gap. Lightweight body fixed sensors were placed on each wrist and lower back. Participants walked under 3 walking conditions each of 1 minute: 1) comfortable speed, 2) walking while serially subtracting 3's (Dual Task), 3) walking at fast speed. Aging effects on arm swing amplitude, range, symmetry, jerk and axial rotation amplitude and jerk were compared between decades of age (30-40; 41-50; 51-60; 61-77 years). As expected, older adults walked slower (p = 0.03) and with increased stride variability (p = 0.02). Arm swing amplitude decreased with age under all conditions (p = 0.04). In the oldest group, arm swing decreased during dual task and increased during the fast walking condition (p<0.0001). Similarly, arm swing asymmetry increased during the dual task in the older groups (p<0.004), but not in the younger groups (p = 0.67). Significant differences between groups and within conditions were observed in arm swing jerk (p<0.02), axial rotation amplitude (p<0.02) and axial jerk (p<0.001). Gait speed, arm swing amplitude of the dominant arm, arm swing asymmetry and axial rotation jerk were all independent predictors of age in a multivariate model. These findings suggest that the effects of gait speed and dual tasking on arm swing and axial rotation during walking are altered among healthy older adults. Follow-up work is needed to examine if these effects contribute to reduced stability in aging.
ASJC Scopus subject areas