Sagittal-plane balance perturbations during very slow walking: Strategies for recovering linear and angular momentum.

Journal of biomechanics(2023)

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Abstract
Spatiotemporal gait characteristics change during very slow walking, a relevant speed considering individuals with movement disorders or using assistive devices. However, we lack insights in how very slow walking affects human balance control. Therefore, we aimed to identify how healthy individuals use balance strategies while walking very slow. Ten healthy participants walked on a treadmill at an average speed of 0.43ms-1, while being perturbed at toe off right by either perturbations of the whole-body linear momentum (WBLM) or angular momentum (WBAM). WBLM perturbations were given by a perturbation on the pelvis in forward or backward direction. The WBAM was perturbed by two simultaneous perturbations in opposite directions on the pelvis and upper body. The given perturbations had magnitudes of 4, 8, 12 and 16% of the participant's body weight, and lasted for 150ms. After perturbations of the WBLM the centre of pressure placement was modulated using the ankle joint, while keeping the moment arm of the ground reaction force (GRF) with respect to the centre of mass (CoM) small. After the perturbations of the WBAM a quick recovery was initiated, using the hip joint and adjusting the horizontal GRF to create a moment arm with respect to the CoM. These findings suggest no fundamental differences in the use of balance strategies at very slow walking compared to normal speeds. Still as the gait phases last longer, this time was exploited to counteract perturbations in the ongoing gait phase.
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