What is gait?

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Written by Sarah Daigle

What is gait?

Gait refers to the movement of our limbs as we walk or our manner of walking.  Gait is an important aspect of our health, but is most often overlooked.

So why is gait important?

Everyone has their own unique way of walking. Your gait impacts the bones and joints in your feet and ankles.  The way we distribute weight over our feet and ankles affects our knees, hips, back, and neck, as well as affecting our mobility as we age, which usually decreases.2,3

When weight is distributed incorrectly on our feet and ankles over extended periods of time, the bones and joints wear down which can cause varying types of chronic pain, including: corns, calluses, bursitis, inflammations, strains, tendonitis, arthritis, and lower back pain. 2,3

Gait analysis is an assessment of the way you walk to determine biomechanical abnormalities which lead to the previously mentioned types of pain.  Research in gait analysis is ongoing and has led to some interesting hypotheses and conclusions about gait, biomechanics, and the link to disease progression. 

 

A current study, published in May 2010, was conducted, in part, by doctors and scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine, Alzheimer's Disease Clinical and Research Program and Department of Neurology.  The goal of this study was to determine and compare the differences in lower extremity function in older adults who are: (1) cognitively healthy, (2) have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and (3) have Alzheimer's disease (AD).  Based on the current participant's results, the outcome of this study suggests that cognitive impairment disturbs gait and disrupts lower extremity function.  Conversely, the study also suggests that gait disturbance and reduced function in the lower extremities can be an indicator of mild cognitive impairment and future cognitive decline.  Poor lower extremity function and gait disturbance is a symptom of Alzheimer's disease and is characterized by a slow walking speed.  The results of the study further suggest that walking speed may be a measure sensitive enough to assess lower extremity function impairments in not only AD patients, but also MCI patients.  Reduced walking speed is associated with adverse events, including falls, which can lead to bone fractures.  To view the entire study, click the link below.

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864645/?tool=pubmed