Quantifying effects of age on balance and gait with inertial sensors in community-dwelling healthy adults

Jeong Ho Park, Martina Mancini, Patricia Carlson-Kuhta, John G. Nutt, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Although balance and gait deteriorate as a person ages, it is unknown if all balance and gait measures change similarly across the adult age span. We developed the Instrumented Stand and Walk test (ISAW) to provide a quick quantification of key components of balance and walking: postural sway, anticipatory postural adjustments during step initiation, gait, and turning using body-worn, inertial sensors. Our aims were to characterize how different balance and gait measures change with age and to identify key age-related measures of mobility, in a wide age range of healthy, community-dwelling adults. A total of 135 healthy, community-dwelling subjects of age range 21–89 years with no history of falls were enrolled. Subjects wore inertial sensors on the wrists, ankles, sternum and lumbar area; 37 reliable and valid measures of postural sway, step initiation, gait and turning were computed. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were performed to examine how the measures changed with age. Several distinct correlation patterns between age and ISAW measures were observed: linear deterioration, deterioration after plateau, and subtle, or no, worsening. Spatial, but not temporal, measures of gait were age-related. The strongest age correlation was found for centroidal frequency of mediolateral postural sway (r = − 0.50, p ≤ 0.001). A hierarchical regression model revealed that age was the most important predictor of mediolateral centroidal frequency, with lower sway frequencies associated with older age, independent of gender, weight, and height. Our results showed that balance and gait represent independent control systems for mobility and not all balance and gait measures deteriorate the same way with age. Postural sway during stance was more strongly related to age than any gait, gait initiation or turning measure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-58
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Aging
  • Balance
  • Gait
  • Inertial sensor
  • Mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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