Coactivation of agonist and antagonist muscles participates in the regulation of joint stiffness and postural instability. Alterations on muscle activity have been revealed as an important falling risk factor. It is unclear the effects, and age-related differences, of a prolonged demanding task on the muscular coactivation levels. We compared muscle activation amplitude and coactivation of the vastus medialis, biceps femoris, tibialis anterior, and gastrocnemius medialis from surface EMG in 16 young adults (age 21-33) and 8 elderly adults (age 66-72) while fast-walking at 70% of their maximum heart rate. Overall, the elderly demonstrated higher coactivation indexes than the young individuals. Ankle coactivation decreased in the first half of the swing phase, while coactivation at the knee increased in the latter half of the swing phase in our elders. Alterations of muscle activation and coactivation on the knee and ankle were more prominent close to landing and in the swing phase. Our results suggest that these alterations may suggest potential concerns with respect to the risk of falls.
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