Different cognitive functions discriminate gait performance in younger and older women: A pilot study

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Gait and Posture





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Aim Cognitive dysfunction is associated with slower gait speed in older women, but whether cognitive function affects gait performance earlier in life has yet to be investigated. Thus, the objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that cognitive function will discriminate gait performance in healthy younger women. Methods Fast-pace and dual-task gait speed were measured in 30 young to middle-aged (30–45 y) and 26 older (61–80 y) women without mild cognitive impairment. Visuoperceptual ability, working memory, executive function, and learning ability were assessed using neuropsychological tests. Within each age group, women were divided by the median into lower and higher cognitive function groups to compare gait performance. Results Younger women with higher visuoperceptual ability had faster fast-pace (2.25 ± 0.30 vs. 1.98 ± 0.18 m/s, p ≤ 0.01) and dual-task gait speed (2.02 ± 0.27 vs. 1.69 ± 0.25 m/s, p ≤ 0.01) than women with lower visuoperceptual ability. The difference in dual-task gait speed remained significant (p = 0.02) after adjusting for age, years of education, and other covariates. Dividing younger women based on other cognitive domains showed no difference in gait performance. In contrast, working memory and executive function discriminated dual-task gait speed (p < 0.05) in older women after adjusting for age and education. Conclusion To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that poorer cognitive function even at a relatively young age can negatively impact mobility. Different cognitive functions discriminated gait performance based on age, highlighting a possible influence of aging in the relationship between cognitive function and mobility in women.

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