Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 701–709 | Cite as

Development of a rapid stepping test to challenge rapid weight-shifting function in older adults

  • Margaret M. Ruwitch
  • Brandi Row LazzariniEmail author
Original Article



The ability to step rapidly, shift weight from side-to-side, and maintain temporal rhythmicity are important functional elements for walking independently and preventing falls in seniors.


The purpose of this study was to develop a clinically feasible test of rapid stepping performance that challenges the ability to step rapidly, shift weight from side-to-side, and maintain temporal rhythmicity.


Participants were a volunteer sample of healthy, self-ambulating older adults aged 70–98 years. A Repeated Alternating Stair Touch Test was developed, which involved rapidly shifting weight in the medial–lateral direction by tapping each foot alternately onto a step. Performance on the test was assessed using trunk acceleration signals. Associations between the number of steps completed on the Repeated Alternating Stair Touch Test in 20 s and acceleration magnitude, variability, and stepping rhythmicity were assessed using Pearson correlations and linear regression. Repeatability was assessed during a 2-week follow-up period.


The acceleration magnitude, variability, and stepping rhythmicity variables related moderately with the number of steps on the Repeated Alternating Stair Touch Test (r = 0.534–0.572, p < 0.05) and were independent predictors of the number of steps taken (R 2 adj. = 0.624, p < 0.001). Repeatability was mixed, though most acceleration variables and number of steps had moderate to high correlations between sessions (intraclass correlations: 0.486–0.828), but a learning effect was evident; performance improved between sessions.


The Repeated Alternating Stair Touch Test has potential as a simple test of rapid, rhythmic weight-shifting function, but requires modification to improve repeatability.


Acceleration Aging Postural balance Geriatric assessment Rhythmicity 



Funding for this research project was provided by Willamette University’s Science Collaborative Research Program, iHuman Science Grant, and the Julianne Abendroth Exercise Science Award. We would like to acknowledge Theo Kataras for his help with the data collection process.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest regarding this study.

Statement of human and animal rights

All procedures performed involving human participants in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

All participants gave written informed consent.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MOV 51010 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Exercise ScienceWillamette UniversitySalemUSA

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