Age group differences in postural adjustments associated with a stepping task

Vicki Stemmons Mercer, Shirley A. Sahrmann, Virginia Diggles-Buckles, Richard A. Abrams, Barbara J. Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In this study, differences among age groups in the postural adjustments associated with a stepping task were identified. Twenty subjects from each of 3 age groups, children (8-12 years), young adults (25-35 years), and older adults (65-73 years), performed the task in 2 movement contexts: place and step. In place, the subject simply lifted the foot and placed it on the step. In step, the subject lifted the foot, placed it on the step, and stepped up onto the step. Latencies of postural and focal muscle activation were determined by using surface electromyography and pressure switches. Center of pressure (CP) data were obtained by using a force platform. Subjects in all 3 age groups consistently demonstrated postural adjustments before movement initiation. Children displayed longer postural latencies than young adults as well as disproportionately large values for CP path length. Older adults showed prolonged postural-focal latencies and decreased CP excursions compared with the 2 younger age groups. These results suggest that maturation of coordination between posture and movement may not be fully complete in 8- to 12-year-olds and that increased restraint characterizes the performance of postural adjustments in healthy persons over 65 years of age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-253
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Motor Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997


  • Center of pressure
  • Human stance
  • Postural adjustment
  • Reaction time
  • Stepping

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