Older adults demonstrate interlimb transfer of reactive gait adaptations to repeated unpredictable gait perturbations

Christopher McCrum*, Kiros Karamanidis, Lotte Grevendonk, Wiebren Zijlstra, Kenneth Meijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Downloads (Pure)


The ability to rapidly adjust gait to cope with unexpected mechanical perturbations declines with ageing. Previous studies, however, have not ensured that gait stability pre-perturbation was equivalent across participants or age groups which may have influenced the outcomes. In this study, we investigate if age-related differences in stability following gait perturbations remain when all participants walk with equivalent stability. We also examine if interlimb transfer of gait adaptations are observed in healthy older adults, by examining if adaptation to repeated perturbations of one leg can benefit stability recovery when the other leg is perturbed. During walking at their stability-normalised walking speeds (young: 1.32 +/- 0.07 m/s; older: 1.31 +/- 0.13 m/s; normalised to an average margin of stability of 0.05 m), 30 young and 28 older healthy adults experienced ten unpredictable treadmill belt accelerations (the first and last applied to the right leg, the others to the left leg). Using kinematic data, we assessed the margins of stability during unperturbed walking and the first eight post-perturbation recovery steps. Older adults required three more steps to recover during the first perturbation to each leg than the young adults. Yet, after repeated perturbations of the left leg, older adults required only one more step to recover. Interestingly, for the untrained right leg, the older adults could regain stability with three fewer steps, indicating interlimb transfer of the improvements. Age differences in reactive gait stability remain even when participants' walk with equivalent stability. Furthermore, we show that healthy older adults can transfer improvements in balance recovery made during repeated perturbations to one limb to their recovery following a perturbation to the untrained limb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Aged
  • Balance
  • Falls
  • Locomotion
  • Stability
  • SLIP
  • AGE


Dive into the research topics of 'Older adults demonstrate interlimb transfer of reactive gait adaptations to repeated unpredictable gait perturbations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this