Introduction The primary study aim was to determine if repeated exposure to trips and slips with increasing unpredictability while walking can improve balance recovery responses when predictive gait alterations (e.g. slowing down) are minimised. The secondary aim was to determine if predictive gait alterations acquired through exposure to perturbations at a fixed condition would transfer to highly unpredictable conditions. Methods Ten young adults were instructed to step on stepping tiles adjusted to their usual step length and to a metronome adjusted to their usual cadence on a 10-m walkway. Participants were exposed to a total of 12 slips, 12 trips and 6 non-perturbed trials in three conditions: 1) right leg fixed location, 2) left leg fixed location and 3) random leg and location. Kinematics during non-perturbed trials and pre- and post-perturbation steps were analysed. Results Throughout the three conditions, participants walked with similar gait speed, step length and cadence(p>0.05). Participants’ extrapolated centre of mass (XCoM) was anteriorly shifted immediately before slips at the fixed location (p<0.01), but this predictive gait alteration did not transfer to random perturbation locations. Improved balance recovery from trips in the random location was indicated by increased margin of stability and step length during recovery steps (p<0.05). Changes in balance recovery from slips in the random location was shown by reduced backward XCoM displacement and reduced slip speed during recovery steps (p<0.05). Conclusions Even in the absence of most predictive gait alterations, balance recovery responses to trips and slips were improved through exposure to repeated unpredictable perturbations. A common predictive gait alteration to lean forward immediately before a slip was not useful when the perturbation location was unpredictable. Training balance recovery with unpredictable perturbations may be beneficial to fall avoidance in everyday life.
Bibliographical noteCopyright: © 2018 Okubo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
- predictive gait alterations
- balance recovery