Functional fitness is the ability of an older adult to perform activities of daily living. Stair-climb power is a well-documented marker of functional fitness among older adults. Gait velocity and parameters of gait are related to functional fitness but have been understudied to date.
The purpose of this observational study was to determine differences in parameters of gait between high- and low-functioning older adults.
Twenty high-functioning older adults, mean age (SD) = 71.6 (5.6), volunteered for the cross-sectional observational study. Functional fitness was determined by a stair-climb performance test. Parameters of gait included velocity, step length, swing and stance phase, double support time, ground reaction forces, impulse, and propulsion during habitual walking. Analysis of variance was performed to determine differences in the dependent variables between groups.
Individuals with high levels of functional fitness walked 13.1% faster than the lower-functioning group (P = .01). No significant differences (P > .05) were detected for any other measure; however, all gait parameters were more favorable in the higher-functioning group.
Functional fitness is imperative for older adults as declines could hinder mobility. Thus, earlier detection of declines in gait parameters may reduce the risk of falling. The results suggest that gait velocity was slower among older adults with lower levels of functional fitness.