Regular exercise in the elderly is effective to preserve the speed of voluntary stepping under single-task condition but not under dual-task condition Academic Article uri icon


  • Stepping response may be considered the most important postural reaction to prevent a fall because it is the inability to respond effectively to a loss of balance that ultimately determines whether a fall occurs. However, very little has been studied on the effect of exercising on step execution behavior in the elderly. To explore whether older persons who exercise regularly have faster voluntary stepping times than sedentary elderly persons. Additionally, we investigated the association between step execution behavior, self-reported physical function, and balance performance. Case-control study of 48 elderly adults aged 65-91 years who live independently in retirement homes. Participants were classified as 24 exercisers (reporting >2 exercise training activities/week) and 24 age- and gender-matched inactive elderly individuals (who do not exercise regularly). The Voluntary Step Execution Test was performed as a reaction time task while standing on a force platform under single-task and dual-task conditions. Step initiation phase, foot off time, foot contact time, preparatory, and swing phases were extracted from center of pressure and ground reaction force data. Self-reported function was examined using Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument; Berg Balance Test was also performed. Exercisers had significantly faster voluntary step times in single-task condition (959 vs. 1,158 ms) but not during dual-task condition (1,170 vs. 1,303 ms). Exercisers had a significantly higher Berg Balance Test (53.7 +/-3.6 vs. 49.8 +/-5.3), consumed less medication (3.3 +/-2.3 vs. 5.6 +/-2.9), and their lower extremity function scores were higher (88.61 +/-2.3 vs. 73.1 +/-2.7) than those of inactive subjects. Exercising regularly protects from physical functioning loss in older persons and against a decrease in voluntary step execution times during single-task but not during dual-task conditions. Lack of specificity (dual-task exercises) during the training may be the cause of insignificant differences in dual-task stepping performance. Thus, adding dual-task training may improve dual-task performance in the elderly.

publication date

  • January 1, 2009