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Gait and Balance

By Gretchen Wilson

Paying attention to our gait as we grow older is important because it plays a crucial role in balance and fall prevention. To understand how gait affects balance let’s look at the physiological changes that affect gait as we age. These changes, which take place as a natural part of aging, can be slowed down or improved through exercise, awareness, and self-correction.

Physiological Changes Associated With Aging

FEET
•Feet tend to be placed wider apart for more lateral stability.
•Toes begin turning outward to increase lateral stability.
•Ankle range of motion (dorsiflexion) is reduced.
•Increased flattening of the foot vs. rolling through.
•Decreased sensitivity on the bottom of the feet.

UPPER BODY STRENGTH
•Weakening of postural stability impacts body biomechanics by changing the center
of gravity.

LOWER BODY STRENGTH
•Weakening of muscle strength in limbs is directly related to reduced gait velocity and
shorter strides.

LOWER BODY FLEXIBILITY
•Loss of lower body flexibility and muscle elasticity.

HEAD
•Thoracic kyphosis increases from the 4th decade on; greater in women and at a faster
rate in women.

HIP AND PELVIC AREA
•Hip extension is reduced.
•Pelvic weakness causes muscles to compensate in deforming ways:
Anterior pelvic tilt – front of pelvis drops while back of pelvis rises; called lordosis
Posterior pelvic tilt – front of pelvis rises while back of pelvis drops; spine rounds,
abdominal muscles shorten and back muscles lengthen causing a kyphotic
posture
Lateral pelvic tilt – lateral tilting in both directions associated with scoliosis or
people who have legs of different length

JOINTS
•Decline in joint mobility, stability and position sense (proprioception).

MOTOR NEURONS
•Decrease in numbers, size and conduction velocity of motor neurons.

Here are some exercises from the Sit and Be Fit television series which will help improve balance and gait. Take time to do practice these exercises regularly.

https://youtu.be/09AZjFB2n5c

Related Blogs:

Gait Initiation Exercises

Gait Training Exercises

Gait Drill

Get Your Gait On

Recommended DVDs:

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