Exploring how arm movement moderates the effect of task difficulty on balance performance in young and older adults

Ellie Johnson, Toby Ellmers, Thomas Muehlbauer, Stephen Lord, Mathew Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Emerging evidence highlights that arm movements exert a substantial and functionally relevant contribution on quiet standing balance control in young adults. Ageing is associated with “non-functional” compensatory postural control strategies (i.e., lower limb co-contraction), which in turn, may increase the reliance on an upper body strategy to control upright stance. Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to compare the effects of free versus restricted arm movements on balance performance in young and older adults, during tasks of different difficulty. Fifteen young (mean ± SD age; 21.3 ± 4.2 years) and fifteen older (mean ± SD age; 73.3 ± 5.0 years) adults performed bipedal, semi-tandem and tandem balance tasks under two arm position conditions: restricted arm movements and free arm movements. Centre of pressure (COP) amplitude and frequency were calculated as indices of postural performance and strategy, respectively. Especially in older adults, restriction of arm movement resulted in increased sway amplitude and frequency, which was primarily observed for the mediolateral direction. Further, increasing balance task difficulty raised the arm restriction cost (ARC; a new measure to quantify free vs. restricted arm movement differences in postural control) that was more prominent in older adults. These findings indicate the ARC provides a measure of reliance on the upper body for balance control and that arm movement is important for postural control in older adults, especially during tasks of greater difficulty.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103093
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Movement Science
Early online date21 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license


  • Arm movements
  • Postural sway
  • Quiets standing
  • Task difficulty
  • Upper limbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring how arm movement moderates the effect of task difficulty on balance performance in young and older adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this