Balance and gait performance in an urban and a rural population

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OBJECTIVE: To compare the differences in standing balance and gait performance between two populations, correlated with age and physical activities of daily living. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study. SETTINGS: Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden, and Sjobo, a typical agricultural community 60 km east of Malmo. PARTICIPANTS: Participants were 570 men and women from the urban community (urban) and 391 from the rural community (rural), born in 1938, 1928, 1918, and 1908, and women born in 1948. The two cohorts were subdivided into true urbans, who had lived only in the city (n = 269), and true rurals, who had never lived in a city (n = 354). MEASUREMENTS: Information about workload, housing, spare time activities, medication, and illness during different decades of life was gathered using two questionnaires. The first questionnaire was sent to the home after agreement to participate, and the second was presented at the test session. The clinical measurements were standing balance, gait speed, and step length. RESULTS: The urban subjects had significantly (P < .001) impaired balance compared with rural subjects. This difference increased with increasing age. The urban subjects walked faster than the rural subjects (P < .001), and the urban subjects used fewer steps than their rural counterparts (P < .001). Spare time activities had a significant influence on the above tests, but, except for gait velocity (P = .011), workload was of minor importance according to analysis of covariance. CONCLUSION: Background factors such as usual daily activities of living and lifestyle seem to be of importance when evaluating and comparing different populations with respect to their balance and gait performance.


  • K A Ringsberg
  • P Gardsell
  • Olof Johnell
  • Brynjolfur Jonsson
  • Karl Obrant
  • Ingemar Sernbo
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geriatrics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-70
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Publication categoryResearch