Background: Both age and lack of physical activity may be responsible for poor health and poor balance control. Conversely, physical activity may modulate postural control in elderly people. Objective: An observational study was performed in older adults to explore whether walking on a regular basis might prove to be beneficial not only to the cardiovascular system but also to maintaining a good balance. Methods: Twenty-two healthy older subjects walking on a regular basis (DW group) and 121 healthy control older subjects who did not walk regularly (NW group) were studied. The subjects included in the study were free from major gait and postural disorders. An instrumented force platform was used to measure the time-varying displacements of the center of pressure under eight static conditions and postural limit tests. An isometric test was performed to evaluate lower limb muscle strength, and a static two-point discrimination test evaluated the innervation density of the slowly adapting receptors of the sole of the first toe. Results: The DW group had a significantly better (p < 0.05) postural stability under static conditions than the NW group. There were no significant differences in postural limit tests and in two-point discrimination between the groups. The DW group had significantly higher values of ankle plantar flexor and knee extensor strengths, while there were no significant differences in ankle dorsiflexors and knee flexors. None of the DW group reported experiencing a fall during the previous 6 months compared with 16% in the NW group who reported at least two falls during the last half year. Conclusions: Walking on a regular basis in old age may have the potential to modulate stability. It was found that healthy older subjects, who walked on a regular basis since their retirement, have better postural control, especially in their static balance, than those who do not. The laboratory results were accompanied by the important finding that although older subjects who walk on a regular basis walked much more than nonwalkers, they did not suffer from falls.
- Force platform
- Maximal voluntary isometric contraction
- Postural control
- Postural limits
- Pressure center, postural sway
- Two-point discrimination