Effects of Obesity and Age on Muscle Strength, Gait, and Balance Recovery
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Obese and older adults are reported to have a higher rate of mobility limitation and are at a higher risk of fall compared to healthy-weight and young counterparts. To help identify potential mechanisms of these mobility limitations and higher risk of falls, the purpose of the research within this dissertation was to investigate the effects of obesity and age on muscle strength, gait, and balance recovery. Three experimental studies were conducted. The purpose of the first study was to investigate the effects of obesity and age on extension and flexion strength at the hip, knee, and ankle. Absolute strength among obese participants was higher in dorsiflexion, knee extension, and hip flexion compared to healthy-weight participants. Strength relative to body mass was lower among obese participants in all joints/exertions. This lack of uniformity across the 6 exertions is likely due to the still unclear underlying biomechanical mechanism responsible for these strength differences, which may also be influenced by aging. The purpose of the second study was to investigate the effects of obesity, age and, their interactions on relative effort at the hip, knee, and ankle during gait. The peak relative effort for each joint/exertion was expressed by peak NMM during gait as a percentage of the maximum available NMM. The relative effort in hip, knee, and ankle was higher among obese compared to healthy-weight participants. This higher relative effort in hip, knee, and especially in the ankle can be a contributing factor to compromised walking ability among obese individuals. The purpose of the third study was to investigate the effects of age-related strength loss on non-stepping balance recovery capability after a perturbation while standing, without constraining the movements to ankle strategy. The balance recovery capability was quantified by the maximum recoverable platform displacement (MRPD) that was withstood without stepping. Two experiments were conducted. The first experiment involved human subjects and the results suggested that MRPD was lower among older participants compared to young participants. The second experiment involved a simulation study to manipulate muscle strength at hip, knee, and ankle. The results suggested that MRPD was reduced in cases of loss of strength in ankle plantar flexion and hip flexion compared to the young model and did not differ in rest of the cases. The finding suggested that plantar flexor strength plays a major role in capability to recover balance even though the movement was not constrained to the ankle.
- Doctoral Dissertations