Senior Health

Walking Patterns and Balance Problems

Researchers have learned how to precisely predict the way a foot falls from one step to the next – and that could lead to better diagnosis and treatment of balance problems.

The investigators, from The Ohio State University, made the discovery based on watching people walk naturally on a treadmill. From that, they developed a mathematical model that can pinpoint the location of a person’s next step based on minute variations in the movement of the pelvis.

“We were able to show that the next foot position can be predicted way in advance of when the foot is placed—as early as the middle of the previous step—based on how the body is falling,” said Manoj Srinivasan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering “Nobody knew that such high predictability was possible with such a simple model and with only normal walking data.”
The investigators said their discovery could eventually help in the diagnosis and treatment of balance problems.

Each step a person takes, the researchers explained can be thought of as a small move that helps us recover stability from the previous step, which is the equivalent of a very tiny fall. Those moves are a miniature version of the larger moves we use to stay upright after something knocks us off balance.

In the study, the researchers fitted 10 participants with “motion capture markers” and monitored them as they walked on a treadmill at varying speeds.

The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.

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