Carrying shopping bags does not alter static postural stability and gait parameters in healthy older females

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Bampouras, Theodoros ; Dewhurst, Susan (2016)

Food shopping is an important aspect of maintaining independence and social interaction in older age. Carriage of shopping bags alters the body’s weight distribution which, depending on load distribution, could potentially increase instability during standing and walking. The study examined the effect of carrying UK style shopping bags on static postural stability and gait in healthy older and young females. Nine older (71.0±6.0 years) and 10 young (26.7±5.2 years) females were assessed in five conditions carrying no bags, one 1.5kg bag in each hand, one 3kg bag in each hand, one 1.5kg bag in preferred hand, one 3kg bag in preferred hand. Antero-posterior and medio-lateral displacement, and 95% ellipse area from a 30s quiet standing were used for postural stability assessment. Stride length and its coefficient of variation, total double support time, step asymmetry and gait stability ratio were calculated from one minute treadmill walking at self-selected speed for gait assessment. Carrying shopping bags did not negatively affect postural stability or gait variables, in either group. Further, in older individuals, a decrease in sway velocity was found when holding bags during the postural stability assessment (p<0.05), suggesting that carriage of bags, irrespective of the load distribution, may have a stabilising effect during quiet standing. These results should help to alleviate concerns regarding safety of carrying shopping bags and help encourage shopping, both as a social and as a physical activity.
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