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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01318

Comparable Stride Time Fractal Dynamics and Gait Adaptability in Active Young and Older Adults Under Normal and Asymmetric Walking

  • 1University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States

Previous research indicates the correlation structure of gait parameters (i.e., fractal dynamics) decreases with age. This decrease is suggested to reflect a reduced capacity for locomotor adaptation in older adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate potential differences between physical activity-matched young and older adults’ fractal dynamics and gait adaptability during unperturbed and asymmetric walking, and to determine if fractal dynamics predict adaptive capacity. Fifteen young (28.95.6 years, 9 women) and 15 older (64.72.7, 9 women) adults with similar habitual physical activity levels walked at preferred speed, half of preferred speed, and asymmetrically whereby their dominant and non-dominant legs moved at preferred and half-preferred speed, respectively. Fractal correlations (scaling exponent ) of stride times were assessed through detrended fluctuation analysis, and gait adaptation to asymmetric walking on the basis of lower limb relative phase. Both cohorts displayed similar fractal dynamics at preferred speed and asymmetric walking, while older adults exhibited greater  during slow walking. Both groups exhibited comparable gait adaptation to split-belt walking based on analysis of lower limb relative phase. Fractal dynamics during preferred speed and asymmetric walking was moderately associated with gait adaptation in the young and older adult cohorts, respectively. In these activity-matched groups, there were no age-based reductions in fractal dynamics or gait adaptation, and fractal scaling  was moderately associated with gait adaptation. These findings suggest that stride time fractal dynamics and gait adaptation may be preserved in older adults who habitually perform moderate intensity physical activity.

Keywords: Split-belt treadmill, correlation structure, gait adaptation, physical activity, Aging, Statistical persistence, variability, detrended fluctuation analysis

Received: 13 Jun 2019; Accepted: 30 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Ducharme, Kent and van Emmerik. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Scott W. Ducharme, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, United States, scott.ducharme@csulb.edu