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Gait Initiation Exercises

By Gretchen Wilson

Gait Initiation is the first step in the gait cycle. The initial movement from the standing static posture to the first step forward can be controlled and strengthened through practice exercises. Here are two exercises from the Sit and Be Fit BET manual (Balance Enhancement Training). These are good exercises for senior fitness instructors to integrate into their senior exercise classes.

First Step Length Variability Exercise
Goal: maintain consistent step length

Step 1   Stand to the side of the chair, resting one hand on the chair for balance. Begin in a neutral position. On your verbal cue, “Step”, instruct students to take their first step as if beginning to walk forward and freeze in that position. At this point the front foot should be flat (or nearly flat) on the floor and the back foot should be in the “heel lifted” position, preparing to swing through.

Step 2   Ask students to look down and observe where their front foot is planted and observe where their feet are in relationship to each other. Then cue them to “reset”, meaning return to the beginning position. NOTE: if time permits, have students place a small piece of tape on the floor directly in front of their toes at the “starting line”. After they take their first step, place a small piece of tape marking where their forward heel strikes. The goal is to keep this same distance each time the step is initiated.

Step 3   Repeat this drill at least 5 times and change feet. Encourage students to work towards achieving the same step length each time they take their first initiating step. This exercise will help develop body memory of and recognition of what the initiating step placement feels like.

Advanced: Repeat above with eyes closed.

Arm Swing Exercise
Goal: train arms to participate functionally in gait initiation

Step 1   Stand to the side of the chair, resting one hand on the chair for balance. Begin in a neutral position. On your verbal cue, “Step”, instruct students to take their first step as if beginning to walk forward and freeze in that position. At this point the front foot should be flat (or nearly flat) on the floor and the back foot should be in the “heel lifted” position, preparing to swing through.

Step 2   Add the opposite arm swinging forward. When students are in the “freeze position” ask them to become aware of their posture and the relationship between their forward foot and opposite forward arm. Ask them to correct their posture, if need be, making sure they are upright, with eyes looking forward on the horizon. Repeat drill 5 times and change feet.

Step 3   Repeat above with eyes closed. (Note: This is an advanced skill and should only be practiced in a safe environment.)

Related Blogs:

Gait Training Exercises

Gait Drill

Get Your Gait On

Recommended DVDs:

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