Falling without falls: the adaptability of human gait across different ages

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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    Abstract

    Walking on two legs is essentially a sequence of controlled falls—we step, lean forward, and take a new step to prevent falling over. If you take 5000 steps today without losing balance, you would thus have been successfully falling without falls. We can even still achieve this success when the walking surface is slippery because we can adjust the characteristics of our walking to accommodate those changes in the environment. However, these adjustments might work differently at older age due to age-related changes in the sensory and neuromotor systems. To better understand how older age affects the ability to make walking adjustments, we examined the motor strategies young and older adults use to adjust their walking in response to external perturbations in this thesis. This was studied on a treadmill with two parallel belts, one underneath each foot, where walking was perturbed by increasing the speed in one of the belts. We found that people at an older age were still able to adjust their walking to this external perturbation but did so more slowly. In a different task, in which people were slipped on the treadmill, we found that older adults adjusted their walking to a greater extent than younger adults in the steps preceding the slip. The findings of this thesis illustrate that people adjust their walking if they are confronted with challenging or unusual situations while walking, but the way these adjustments are achieved changes at older age.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Lamoth, Claudine, Supervisor
    • den Otter, Rob, Co-supervisor
    Award date13-Mar-2024
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Publisher
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

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