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Independent effects of adding weight and inertia on balance during quiet standing
Costello, Kerry E.
Matrangola, Sara L.
Madigan, Michael L.
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Background Human balance during quiet standing is influenced by adding mass to the body with a backpack, with symmetrically-applied loads to the trunk, or with obesity. Adding mass to the body increases both the weight and inertia of the body, which theoretically could provide counteracting effects on body dynamics and balance. Understanding the independent effects of adding weight and inertia on balance may provide additional insight into human balance that could lead to novel advancements in balance training and rehabilitation. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the independent effects of adding weight and inertia on balance during quiet standing. Methods Sixteen normal-weight young adult participants stood as still as possible on a custom-built backboard apparatus under four experimental conditions: baseline, added inertia only, added weight only, and added inertia and weight. Results Adding inertia by itself had no measurable effect on center of pressure movement or backboard movement. Adding weight by itself increased center of pressure movement (indicated greater effort by the postural control system to stand as still as possible) and backboard movement (indicating a poorer ability of the body to stand as still as possible). Adding inertia and weight at the same time increased center of pressure movement but did not increase backboard movement compared to the baseline condition. Conclusions Adding inertia and adding weight had different effects on balance. Adding inertia by itself had no effect on balance. Adding weight by itself had a negative effect on balance. When adding inertia and weight at the same time, the added inertia appeared to lessen (but did not eliminate) the negative effect of adding weight on balance. These results improve our fundamental understanding of how added mass influences human balance.