What happens before the first step? A New Approach to Quantifying Gait Initiation Using a Wearable Sensor

Eran Gazit, Aron S. Buchman, Robert Dawe, Thomas A. Curran, Anat Mirelman, Nir Giladi, Jeffrey M. Hausdorff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Walking is a volitional behavior that requires planning and initiation before a step is observed. Following a signal to begin walking, studies of gait initiation in specialized labs have identified three phases that occur during the transition from a standing position via anticipatory postural adjustment (APA) to the first step. Routine instrumented gait testing outside of the laboratory setting focuses on gait execution and does not include gait initiation measures. Research question: Can a single IMU sensor be used for performing gait initiation evaluations outside the lab? Methods: We recorded walking in young (N = 41) and older (N = 26) adults using an instrumented gait mat while they were wearing a 3D accelerometer on their lower back. Subjects were instructed to begin walking following an auditory signal. An algorithm was developed to extract the following measures from the acceleration signal: gait initiation time, measured from the start of the auditory cue to begin walking and ends at the heel-strike of the swing leg, time-to-APA (reaction time), APA duration and swing time (execution of the first step). Results: Intraclass correlation coefficient analysis showed good to excellent agreement between gait initiation metrics obtained with the gait mat and the wearable sensor (mean 0.88, range [0.75-0.96]). Except for swing time, all measures were longer in the older subjects, compared to the young adults (p < 0.01). Significance: Extracting gait initiation measures from routine instrumented gait testing may facilitate studies that can better determine the extent to which impaired gait planning and execution contribute to mobility impairments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-135
Number of pages8
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • accelerometer
  • aging
  • anticipatory postural adjustment
  • gait
  • inertial measurement units

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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