Effect of practice on stepping movements onto laterally compliant raised structures: Age differences in healthy males

Bing-Shiang Yang*, James A. Ashton-Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine effects of practice and age on step-up movements onto raised structures. Background: Falls from laterally compliant structures, such as stepladders, often cause injuries in elderly persons. Although age differences in step-up movements onto raised structures with unexpected structural compliance have been reported, practice effects of such movement control have not been investigated. Method: Movement behavior of 20 healthy adults (10 young and 10 older males) was measured while they stepped up onto a raised structure with no compliance (i.e., rigid) (C0), a small amount of mediolateral compliance (C1), or greater mediolateral compliance (C2). The conditions C0, C1, and C2 were presented in three sets of six fixed-order trials with step-up movements performed at a comfortable speed. Practice effects in step-up behavior were examined by comparing data within each trial block with the use of repeated-measures ANOVA. Results: Practice significantly reduced the stepping duration (Ts) needed to complete the step-up movement (p <.001). With practice, older males reduced their lateral oscillations 26% to 40% for C 1 and C2, whereas the corresponding results for young males lay between 8% and 17%, respectively. The age difference in Ts decreased across six consecutive trials but remained significant, especially on the structure with greater compliance. Conclusion: With practice, both young and elderly men adapted their stepping behavior to the presence of lateral structural compliance, but it is noteworthy from a fall-injury prevention perspective that the elderly men required more trials to do so. Application: Designers and users of raised structures, such as stepladders, should be aware of the age difference of people using such structures and should minimize the structure compliance when designing them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • accidents
  • aging
  • balance
  • elderly injuries
  • fall
  • fall risk
  • fall-injury prevention
  • human error
  • lateral oscillations
  • laterally-complaint raised structures
  • mediolateral compliance
  • movement control
  • practice effects
  • recognition
  • safety
  • sensory and perceptual processes
  • step-up behavior
  • stepladders
  • stepping duration
  • stepping movements
  • structure compliance
  • support surface
  • system identification

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