Slower walking speed in the elderly may be because of loss of muscle strength
Research has found that elderly people walk at a slower speed and tire more quickly because of loss of strength and mass in leg muscles. Using computer simulations they found that these physiological changes explain the slower walking speed preferred by the elderly, and that a focus on building up these leg muscles may be the only effective way to improve elderly walking.
A recent study has found that elderly people walk at a slower speed and get tired more quickly because of loss of strength and mass in leg muscles.
Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania stated that the elders should focus on building their leg muscles as it may be the only effective way to improve their walking.
Walking performance, measured in terms of energy efficiency i.e. how far one can travel per calorie consumption and walking speed, has been shown to decline as people get older.
This decline in walking performance can lead to a less active lifestyle worsening the health of elderly people and is directly linked to a lower 10-year survival rate for people at age 75.
In other words, improving other features such as joint flexibility or walking strategy would not help normal elderly people to walk better.
The team used computer simulations to generate physiologically and physically plausible walking behaviours in order to predict how physiological changes affect gait.
The physiological causes of the declined walking performance were searched by selectively ‘ageing’ the neuro-musculoskeletal properties of the model (for example, changes in body mass distribution, a range of joint motions, and neural transmission delay and noise), and only the aging in muscle properties resulted in a decline in walking performance.
First author Seungmoon Song said, “In the long term, we plan to extend the predictive capability of our neuromechanical simulation framework, for example, to analyse pathological gaits after stroke or spinal cord injury and to prescribe optimal treatment”.
The research appears in the Journal of Physiology.
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