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Tired Walking

April 27, 2018

Preventing falls among the elderly is a matter of mental energy.



How mental energy affects falls in older adults. Coming up on Science Update.

Tired person walking. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When older adults walk slowly and unevenly, it may be a result of mental, rather than physical, fatigue. This according to Clarkson University researcher Abigail Avolio, reporting at the Experimental Biology 2018 conference. She had volunteers over 75-years-old solve tedious math problems, and then walk for six minutes, while sensors measured their stride and speed. They also reported their levels of mental and physical fatigue. Avolio says surprisingly, physical fatigue didn’t affect their gait, but mental fatigue did.

ABIGAIL AVOLIO (Clarkson University):

When you have less mental energy, you walk slower and slower gait speed and shorter stride length have been proven to be predictive of falls in older adults.


The work suggests older people could avoid falls by embarking on long walks only when they’re mentally refreshed. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon