Effects of arm movement strategies on emotional state and balance control during height-induced postural threat in young adults

Mathew Hill, Katherine Russell, Maximilian Wdowski, Stephen Lord, Thomas Muehlbauer, Toby Ellmers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


Background: It is firmly established that postural threat seems to lead to an increased. reliance on an ankle control (‘stiffening’) strategy. However, little is known about how. postural threat affects performance in challenging tasks that require the use of upper. body postural control strategies for stability. It is logical to assume that in such. conditions, being able to utilise an upper body strategy may reduce the reliance on. such ankle stiffening strategy. Research question The objective of this study was to determine how arm movement. influences balance control during a challenging balance task performed under. conditions of postural threat. Methods: Thirty young adults (mean ± SD age; 22.0 ± 4.0 years) balanced in tandem. stance whilst standing at both ground-level (no threat) and 0.8 m above ground. (threat). In both conditions, participants performed the task under two different arm. positions: restricted arm movements and free arm movements. Postural sway. amplitude and frequency were calculated to infer postural stiffening response. Selfreported. emotional responses were quantified by assessing balance confidence, fear. of falling, perceived stability, and conscious balance processing. Results: Independent of arm movements, postural threat evoked an increase in fear of. falling and conscious balance processing, and reductions in balance confidence and. perceived stability. These threat-related changes in emotional state were further. amplified when arm movements were restricted. Whilst significant increases in sway. frequency during threat were observed in both arm conditions, reductions in sway. amplitude were only observed during the restricted arm movement condition. Significance: We propose that these responses likely reflect a fear-related cautious. strategy intended to reduce the postural destabilisation associated with individuals. being unable to use their arms to counter any destabilisation, as would normally be the. case in daily life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-79
Number of pages7
JournalGait and Posture
Early online date28 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • Postural control
  • Upper body strategy
  • Instability perception
  • Anxiety
  • Static balance


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