Gait is a complex, unconscious motor pattern, essential for most daily activities. It comprises a sequence of movements that involve the hip, knee, and foot.
A motor pattern is a particular sequence of muscle movements directed to accomplishing an external purpose.
From a medical point of view, a person’s gait is critical to measure their quality of life and health status, the researchers said.
Scientists seek to understand the forces involved in gait to help treat people with movement disorders. However, in Japan, data on age-related gait parameters among children are limited.
A team of researchers at Nagoya University, and the Aichi Prefectural Mikawa Aoitori Medical and Rehabilitation Center for Developmental Disabilities, determined the normative gait pattern of Japanese children.
They used a three-dimensional (3D) gait analysis system to investigate age-related differences in lower limb movements during walking.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that the recorded gait of Japanese elementary school children differed by age.
Although the gait patterns and gait parameters of typical Japanese children aged 6-12 are similar to those of children in other developed countries, their development differs.
The researchers found four important differences among age groups. First, there was an increase in cadence, the number of steps performed in one minute, among children in the 11–12-year-old group compared to the 6-8 year group, they said.
Second, there was also a decrease in step and stride length among children aged 11–12 years compared to those aged 9–10 years, according to the researchers.
Third, children 11-12 years had less range of motion of the knee during the gait cycle, they said. Fourth, as children aged, a higher plantarflexion moment was observed, which is the motion when a person points their toes at the start of the walking movement.
“We believe that differences in lifestyle, build, and cultural factors all affect Japanese children’s gait,” said Tadashi Ito from the Nagoya University.
“This is not likely to affect the health of Japanese children. But it does indicate characteristics different from those of children in other countries,” Ito said.
The finding provides an important tool for assessing normal and pathological gait and can determine the effectiveness of orthopedic treatment and rehabilitation for gait disorders.