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Motor Learning Versus Standard Walking Exercise in Older Adults with Subclinical Gait Dysfunction: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Objectives

To compare the effect of motor learning with that of standard exercise on measures of mobility and perceived function and disability.

Design

Single-blind randomized trial.

Setting

University research center.

Participants

Older adults (n = 40) with a mean age of 77.1 ± 6.0, normal walking speed (≥1.0 m/s), and impaired motor skills (Figure of 8 walk time >8 seconds).

Interventions

The motor learning program incorporated goal-oriented stepping and walking to promote timing and coordination within the phases of the gait cycle. The standard program employed endurance training by treadmill walking. Both included strength training and were offered twice weekly for 1 hour for 12 weeks.

Measurements

Primary outcomes were mobility performance (gait efficiency, motor skill in walking, gait speed, walking endurance); secondary outcomes were perceived function and disability (Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument).

Results

Thirty-eight of 40 participants completed the trial (motor learning, n = 18; standard, n = 20). The motor learning group improved more than the standard group in gait speed (0.13 vs 0.05 m/s, = .008) and motor skill (−2.2 vs −0.89 seconds, < .001). Both groups improved in walking endurance (28.3 and 22.9 m, P = .14). Changes in gait efficiency and perceived function and disability were not different between the groups (P > .10).

Conclusion

In older adults with subclinical gait dysfunction, motor learning exercise improved some parameters of mobility performance more than standard exercise.

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