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Functional Demand in Older Adults

June 10, 2011

A recent study published in Gait & Posture evaluated the biomechanical demand on the hip and knee while negotiating stairs. Adults aged 60-88 were included in the study. Strength was tested at the hips and knees. A biomechanical assessment was performed going up and down stairs. Findings showed that muscle force required for going up and down stairs exceeded tested knee and hip strength.

These findings indicate that stair climbing and descending place a significant demand on the muscles, reaching to points beyond what the muscle is able to do in many cases. This would leave the older adult with little if any reserve of strength to deal with an unexpected situation, such as loss of balance during step climbing.

The take home point of all this is that older adults must do some exercise for the legs to keep their strength. Having higher baseline strength will allow the individual to perform activities more easily and have “reserves” of strength for unexpected situations.

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