Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Science
Health, Human Performance and Recreation
Context: America’s aging population is growing faster than ever, resulting in increasing challenges for healthcare providers and caregivers. Over 33% of adults aged 65 and older fall annually, and falls are the number one cause of injury-related death in this age group. Assessing fall risk is difficult due to its multifactorial nature, but functional fitness serves as a proxy measure. Women are at a particularly high risk for fall-related injury due to lower bone mineral density and higher fall frequency when compared to males. Fear of falling is also a serious contributor to fall risk, and it affects up to 89% of older adults. Objective: This study investigated the effects of functional fitness on walking speed under dual-tasking conditions. We hypothesized that women who were less functionally fit would experience greater declines in dual-task walking speed. Design: This experiment had a cross-sectional design. Setting: Tests were conducted at a retirement community in northwest Arkansas. Participants: Participants were females over the age of 65 y, with a mean age of 79.6 y. They were recruited on a volunteer basis and divided in two groups of 13 based on functional fitness levels. Interventions: Functional fitness was determined using the 8-foot up-and-go, a measure of agility and dynamic balance. For walking speed assessments, subjects walked a 10-meter distance with 3 meters extra on each end to account for acceleration and deceleration. Speed was measured with a laser timer. Dual-task assessment required subjects to count backwards by threes from a predetermined number. Four protocols with two trials each were used: single-task walking at habitual and maximal speeds, and dual-task walking at habitual and maximal speeds. Main Outcome Measures: The independent variable was functional fitness level (moderate or high). The dependent variables were dual-task walking time and Dual-Task Cost, calculated by subtracting single-task from dual-task walking time. A one-way ANOVA determined differences between dual-task decrement of the habitual and maximal walking speed trials. Statistical significance was set at α=.05. Results: Average 8-foot up-and-go time for the high functioning group was 5.74 seconds. The average time for the moderate functioning group was 8.33 seconds. Dual-task time difference between the two groups for habitual walking was statistically insignificant (p =.789). For maximal speed, dual-task time difference was statistically significant (p =.04). The moderate group exhibited smaller Dual-Task Costs than the high group for both habitual (difference of 1.3 ± 1.5 s) and maximal (difference of 0.3 ± 0.3 s) conditions. These Dual-Task Cost differences were insignificant for usual speed (p = .11) and maximal speed (p = .38) Discussion: The results did not support the hypothesis of Dual-Task Costs being related to functional fitness level. However, there was a significant difference in maximal dual-task speed between the groups. This shows that maximal dual-task walking speed is more closely linked to functional fitness than is habitual dual-task speed.
Engler, Anna, "The Comparison of Dual-Tasking and Functional Fitness in Older Females" (2016). Health, Human Performance and Recreation Undergraduate Honors Theses. 43.