Gait speed is associated with survival in older adults and it was suggested that an elevated energy cost of walking (Cw) is an important determinant of gait speed reduction. Thus far, little is known about the factors that contribute to a lower Cw but it was shown that lower body strength training could reduce the Cw. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between lower body strength and the Cw in a cohort of healthy older adults.
A total of 48 participants were included in this study (70.7 ± 5.4 years). After a geriatric and a neuropsychological assessment, participants underwent a fitness testing protocol which included a maximal oxygen uptake test, assessment of the Cw at 4 km h−1 on a treadmill, an isokinetic maximal strength test for the ankle, knee and hip joints and a body composition assessment. Relationships between strength variables and the Cw were assessed with partial correlations and linear regression analyses.
Hip extensors and hip flexors peak torque was significantly correlated with the Cw (r = −0.36 and −0.32, respectively; p < 0.05). A tendency towards significance was identified for the ankle plantar flexors (r = −0.25, p = 0.09). Hip extensors peak torque was the only significant neuromuscular parameter included in the linear regression analysis (p < 0.05).
These results show that hip extensors are an important muscle group with regards to the Cw measured on a treadmill in this cohort of healthy older adults.
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