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Effects of age on balance assessment using voluntary and involuntary step tasks

This study investigated whether performance on an involuntary step task, which is assumed to be a surrogate for fall recovery abilities, was comparable to performance on a voluntary step task. The performance of a voluntary and an involuntary step task was measured in healthy young women (aged 16–25 yrs) and healthy elderly women (aged 62–74 yrs). Ss stepped as fast as possible in the direction of a minimally destabilizing lateral waist pull (voluntary step task), or they responded naturally to a large destabilizing lateral waist , pull (involuntary step task). The effects of age, task, and their interaction on the primary outcome variables of step foot liftoff time, landing time, step length, and step height were examined. Results in the voluntary step task, the older adults, compared to the young, required significantly more time to lift their foot. In the involuntary step task, the elderly were as quick as the young in lifting their foot. The young lifted their foot at about the same time for the two tasks. The elders, on the other hand, lifted their foot significantly earlier in the involuntary step task, compared to the voluntary step task


Luchies, C. W., Wallace, D., Pazdur, R., Young, S., & DeYoung, A. J. (1999). Effects of age on balance assessment using voluntary and involuntary step tasks. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 54(3), M140-M144. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/54.3.M140

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