Aging is widely considered to be associated with limited balance capacity. It is not clear if forward reach ability is also affected by aging. The purpose of this study was to determine if aging was associated with reduced ability of forward reach or changes in movement patterns. Thirty-three young and 31 older adults were instructed to reach forward as far as possible without losing balance. A motion analysis system was used to record the body kinematics to calculate the joint angle and estimate the motion of center of mass (COM) using a five-segment model. Reach distance (measured from the finger marker), COM displacement, and the distance that the COM exceeded the 2nd toe marker (COM-toe) were used to represent reach performance. The movement patterns were classified as hip, ankle or mixed strategies based upon joint kinematics. It was found that the initial location of the COM was significantly more anterior in the older adults. Older adults were found to have significantly smaller COM displacement and greater hip flexion, but did not differ from young adults in reach distance or COM-toe. Older adults overwhelmingly adopted a hip strategy, but none adopted an ankle strategy. The distribution of the different strategies also differed significantly between groups. These findings suggest that aging appears to be associated with modifications in movement patterns, but not necessarily with a reduction in the ability to approach the boundary of stability. Clinically, balance training for older adults may include the exploration and instruction of atypical movement patterns.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine