Indexed on: 06 Jun '18Published on: 06 Jun '18Published in: PloS one
Medio-lateral stability during walking turns relies on the interaction between precise weight shifts of the body and changes in base of support by regulating step width. Although older adults and clinical populations often slow down while turning in order to compensate for balance impairments, little is known about the influence of walking speed on stability during turning. To compare medio-lateral stability between walking turns and straight walking and to investigate whether walking speed affects medio-lateral stability during turning in healthy older adults. Nineteen older adults walked straight or walked and turned 180° to the right and left at their comfortable speed and at a slow pace. The walking direction was visually cued before they started to walk (preplanned) or while walking straight (unplanned). As a proxy for medio-lateral stability, we calculated the absolute difference between pelvis lateral displacement and the lateral edge of the base of support during straight walking and turning. Overall, irrespective of turning condition, medio-lateral stability was enhanced during turning as the pelvis was further away from the boundary of the base of support resulting in a greater margin of stability compared to straight walking. Turning at a slow pace hampered medio-lateral stability as demonstrated by pelvis lateral displacement closer to the boundaries of the base of support resulting in reduced margins of stability. The reduction in stability was caused by a narrower step width during slow walking whereas pelvis lateral displacement was unaffected by turning speed. In older adults, medio-lateral stability was augmented during turning compared to straight walking, whereas turning at a slow pace hampered medio-lateral stability. These findings provide insights into the postural strategies used by older adults in order to adapt to the postural challenges of turning and straight walking.