Mechanisms used to increase propulsive forces on a treadmill in older adults

Erica A. Hedrick, Sheridan M. Parker, Hao Yuan Hsiao, Brian A. Knarr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Older adults typically demonstrate reductions in overground walking speeds and propulsive forces compared to young adults. These reductions in walking speeds are risk factors for negative health outcomes. Therefore, this study aimed to determine the effect of an adaptive speed treadmill controller on walking speed and propulsive forces in older adults, including the mechanisms and strategies underlying any change in propulsive force between conditions. Seventeen participants completed two treadmill conditions, one with a fixed comfortable walking speed and one with an adaptive speed controller. The adaptive speed treadmill controller utilized a set of inertial-force, gait parameters, and position-based controllers that respond to an instantaneous anterior inertial force. A biomechanical-based model previously developed for individuals post-stroke was implemented for older adults to determine the primary gait parameters that contributed to the change in propulsive forces when increasing speed. Participants walked at faster average speeds during the adaptive speed controller (1.20 m/s) compared to the fixed speed controller conditions (0.98 m/s); however, these speeds were not as fast as their overground speed (1.44 m/s). Although average trailing limb angle (TLA) (p < 0.001) and ankle moment (p = 0.020) increased when speed also increased between treadmill conditions, increasing TLA contributed more to the increased propulsive forces seen during faster treadmill speeds. Our findings show that older adults chose faster walking speeds and increased propulsive force when walking on an adaptive speed treadmill compared to a fixed speed treadmill, suggesting that an adaptive speed treadmill controller has the potential to be a beneficial alternative to current exercise interventions for older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110139
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Jan 22 2021


  • Adaptive speed treadmill
  • Ankle moment
  • Propulsion
  • Trailing limb angle
  • Walking speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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