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Journal Article


Carbonneau E, Smeesters C. Gait Posture 2014; 39(1): 365-371.


Research Center on Aging, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada; Department of Mechanical Engineering, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada; Human Performance and Safety Research Group (PERSEUS), Sherbrooke, QC, Canada.


(Copyright © 2014, Elsevier Publishing)






Several studies have quantified and compared balance recovery between healthy younger and older adults, using a variety of large postural perturbations and loss of balance directions. However, to the best of our knowledge, no studies at the threshold of balance recovery, where avoiding a fall is not always possible, have included middle-aged adults. We thus determined the maximum lean angle from which 20 younger, 16 middle-aged and 16 older healthy adults could be suddenly released and still recover balance using a single step for forward, sideways and backward leans. Results showed that the maximum lean angles of younger adults were 23% greater than middle-aged adults and 48% greater than older adults. The maximum lean angles for forward leans were 23% greater than sideways leans and 22% greater than backward leans. These declines with age and lean direction were associated with declines in response initiation, execution and geometry. Finally exponential regressions showed that the critical ages at which the ability to recover balance and avoid a fall significantly decreases were 51.0, 60.6 and 69.9 yrs for forward, sideways and backward leans, respectively. Therefore, we have demonstrated that age affects the ability to recover balance nearly a decade earlier than the rate of falls. Future studies should thus not only include older adults over 65 yrs, but also middle-aged adults under 65 yrs, or recruit all ages from 18 to 85 yrs. Finally, the critical ages identified in this study may justify an earlier screening of aging adults to prevent future falls, especially the first fall.

Language: en


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