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Lower Walking Speed, Altered Gait in Overweight Women

Reduced walking performance due to poor relative strength, rate of torque development in muscles

MONDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight, older women have altered gait and reduced walking performance due to poor relative strength and rate of torque development (RTD) of lower-extremity muscles compared to older women of normal weight, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology.

Dain P. LaRoche, Ph.D., from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and colleagues investigated whether excess fat negatively affects relative strength and walking gait performance in overweight, older women. One group of 11 normal-weight women (body mass index [BMI], <25 kg/m²) and another group of 14 overweight women (BMI, ≥25 kg/m²) between the ages of 65 and 80 years walked at standard and maximal speeds while muscle activation, spatiotemporal, and kinetic gait variables were assessed. Strength and RTD of the knee extensors and flexors, and ankle plantarflexors and dorsiflexors were evaluated.

The investigators found that the overweight, older women had 24 percent lower maximal torque and 38 percent lower RTD than normal-weight women, relative to mass. Overweight women had significantly slower maximal walking speed, which was associated with strength and fat mass. Lower vertical ground reaction force relative to mass, slower stride rate, shorter strides, longer footground contact times, longer double-limb support times, and greater knee-extensor and plantarflexor activation were seen in overweight women at maximal speed.

"Being overweight and having poor relative strength was associated with slower habitual and maximal walking speeds, which may increase the risk for developing mobility limitation and disability," the authors write.

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