A Comparison of Straight- and Curved-Path Walking Tests Among Mobility-Limited Older Adults

Yale University School of Medicine, 367 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06511. .
The Journals of Gerontology Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.42). 05/2013; 68(12). DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glt060
Source: PubMed


Habitual gait speed (HGS) and the figure-of-8 walking test (F8WT) are measures of walking ability that have been associated with mobility outcomes and disability among older adults. Our objective was to contrast the physiologic, health, and behavioral attributes underlying performance of these two walking tests among older adults with mobility limitations.

HGS and F8WT were the primary outcomes. HGS was measured as time needed to walk a 4-m straight course at usual pace from standstill position. F8WT was measured as time to walk in a figure-of-8 pattern at self-selected usual pace from standstill position. Separate multivariable linear regression models were constructed that predicted walking performance. Independent variables included physiologic, cognitive-behavioral health attributes, and demographic information.

Of 430 participants, 414 completed both walking tests. Participants were 67.7% female, had a mean age of 76.5 ± 7.0 years and a mean of 4.1 ± 2.0 chronic conditions. Mean HGS was 0.94 ± 0.23 m/s and mean F8WT was 8.80 ± 2.90 seconds. Within separate multivariable linear regression models (HGS: R (2) = .46, p model < .001; F8WT: R (2) = .47, p model < .001), attributes statistically significant within both models included: trunk extension endurance, ankle range of motion, leg press velocity at peak power, executive function, and sensory loss. Cognitive and physiologic attributes uniquely associated with F8WT were cognitive processing speed and self-efficacy, and reaction time and heel-to-floor time. Pain and peak leg press strength were associated with only HGS.

Both HGS and F8WT are useful tests of walking performance. Factors uniquely associated with F8WT suggest that it may be well suited for use among older adult patients with balance problems or at risk for falls.

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