European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 12, pp 3021–3026 | Cite as

The effects of aging on postural control and selective attention when stepping down while performing a concurrent auditory response task

  • William W. N. TsangEmail author
  • Nazca K. Y. Lam
  • Kit N. L. Lau
  • Harry C. H. Leung
  • Crystal M. S. Tsang
  • Xi Lu
Original Article



To investigate the effects of aging on postural control and cognitive performance in single- and dual-tasking.


A cross-sectional comparative design was conducted in a university motion analysis laboratory. Young adults (n = 30; age 21.9 ± 2.4 years) and older adults (n = 30; age 71.9 ± 6.4 years) were recruited. Postural control after stepping down was measured with and without performing a concurrent auditory response task. Measurement included: (1) reaction time and (2) error rate in performing the cognitive task; (3) total sway path and (4) total sway area after stepping down.


Our findings showed that the older adults had significantly longer reaction times and higher error rates than the younger subjects in both the single-tasking and dual-tasking conditions. The older adults had significantly longer reaction times and higher error rates when dual-tasking compared with single-tasking, but the younger adults did not. The older adults demonstrated significantly less total sway path, but larger total sway area in single-leg stance after stepping down than the young adults. The older adults showed no significant change in total sway path and area between the dual-tasking and when compared with single-tasking conditions, while the younger adults showed significant decreases in sway.


Older adults prioritize postural control by sacrificing cognitive performance when faced with dual-tasking.


Cognition Posture Balance Aging Stairs 



The authors thank the subjects for their participation. Thanks are also due to Mr. Bill Purves for his English editorial advice. There was no financial support of this project.

Conflict of interest

No commercial party having a direct financial interest in the research findings reported here has conferred or will confer a benefit on the authors or on any organization with which the authors are associated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • William W. N. Tsang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nazca K. Y. Lam
    • 1
  • Kit N. L. Lau
    • 1
  • Harry C. H. Leung
    • 1
  • Crystal M. S. Tsang
    • 1
  • Xi Lu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHong KongChina

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