Retention of gait stability improvements over 1.5 years in older adults: effects of perturbation exposure and triceps surae neuromuscular exercise

G. Epro*, A. Mierau, C. McCrum, M. Leyendecker, G-P Brueggemann, K. Karamanidis

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The plantarflexors play a crucial role in recovery from sudden disturbances to gait. The objective of this study was to investigate whether medium (months)- or long(years)-term exercise-induced enhancement of triceps surae (TS) neuromuscular capacities affects older adults' ability to retain improvements in reactive gait stability during perturbed walking acquired from perturbation training sessions. Thirty-four adult women (65 +/- 7 yr) were recruited to a perturbation training group (n = 13) or a group that additionally completed 14 wk of TS neuromuscular exercise (n = 21), 12 of whom continued with the exercise for 1.5 yr. The margin of stability (MoS) was analyzed at touchdown of the perturbed step and the first recovery step following eight separate unexpected trip perturbations during treadmill walking. TS muscle-tendon unit mechanical properties and motor skill performance were assessed with ultrasonography and dynamometry. Two perturbation training sessions (baseline and after 14 wk) caused an improvement in the reactive gait stability to the perturbations (increased MoS) in both groups. The perturbation training group retained the reactive gait stability improvements acquired over 14 wk and over 1.5 yr. with a minor decay over time. Despite the improvements in TS capacities in the additional exercise group. no benefits for the reactive gait stability following perturbations were identified. Therefore, older adults' neuromotor system shows rapid plasticity to repeated unexpected perturbations and an ability to retain these adaptations in reactive gait stability over a long time period, but an additional exercise-related enhancement of TS capacities seems not to further improve these effects.

NEW & NOTEWORTHY Older adults' neuromotor system shows rapid plasticity to repeated exposure to unexpected perturbations to gait and an ability to retain the majority of these adaptations in reactive recovery responses over a prolonged time period of 1.5 yr. However, an additional exercise-related enhancement of TS neuromuscular capacities is not necessarily transferred to the recovery behavior during unexpected perturbations to gait in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2229-2240
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Volume119
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Keywords

  • aging
  • margin of stability
  • muscle strength
  • neuromuscular exercise
  • tendon stiffness
  • AGE-RELATED-CHANGES
  • LONG-TERM RETENTION
  • DYNAMIC STABILITY
  • ACHILLES-TENDON
  • SENSORY PREDICTION
  • ADAPTIVE-CONTROL
  • FALL PREVENTION
  • NERVOUS-SYSTEM
  • SUPPORT LIMB
  • BALANCE LOSS

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