Anticipatory kinematics and muscle activity preceding transitions from level-ground walking to stair ascent and descent

Joshua Peng, Nicholas P. Fey, Todd A. Kuiken, Levi J. Hargrove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The majority of fall-related accidents are during stair ambulation-occurring commonly at the top and bottom stairs of each flight, locations in which individuals are transitioning to stairs. Little is known about how individuals adjust their biomechanics in anticipation of walking-stair transitions.We identified the anticipatory stride mechanics of nine able-bodied individuals as they approached transitions from level ground walking to stair ascent and descent. Unlike prior investigations of stair ambulation, we analyzed two consecutive "anticipation" strides preceding the transitions strides to stairs, and tested a comprehensive set of kinematic and electromyographic (EMG) data from both the leading and trailing legs. Subjects completed ten trials of baseline overground walking and ten trials of walking to stair ascent and descent. Deviations relative to baseline were assessed.Significant changes in mechanics and EMG occurred in the earliest anticipation strides analyzed for both ascent and descent transitions. For stair descent, these changes were consistent with observed reductions in walking speed, which occurred in all anticipation strides tested. For stair ascent, subjects maintained their speed until the swing phase of the latest anticipation stride, and changes were found that would normally be observed for decreasing speed.Given the timing and nature of the observed changes, this study has implications for enhancing intent recognition systems and evaluating fall-prone or disabled individuals, by testing their abilities to sense upcoming transitions and decelerate during locomotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-536
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 29 2016


  • Ambulation
  • Anticipation
  • Biomechanics
  • Electromyography
  • Gait
  • Kinematics
  • Stair transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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