The effect of attentional focus on temporal- spatial parameters of gait

Evan T. Cohen, Nancy Mcnevin, Angela Hegamin, Sharon A. Nazarchuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Examine the effect of attentional focus (AF) instructions on gait in a sample of older adults. Participants: Older adults residing in independent living quarters (N = 24). Interventions: Participants underwent baseline gait testing, and then testing in two experimental conditions using a randomized, crossover, repeated-measures design. Participants carried a cup of water while walking along an instrumented walkway. In the baseline condition, no AF-related instructions were provided. In each experimental condition, participants received instructions that directed AF to their movement mechanics [i.e., an internal AF (IAF)] or to the effect of their movements [i.e., an external AF (EAF)]. Main Outcome Measure(s): Walking velocity (WV), gait stability ratio (GSR), step-to-step variance in step time (STVAR) and in step length (SLVAR). Results: There were no differences between WV, GSR, and STVAR between experimental conditions, although WV and GSR performance was poorer under both IAF and EAF conditions compared to the baseline. Despite the similar WV and GSR between experimental conditions, STVAR was significantly higher under the EAF condition compared to the baseline and IAF conditions. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the use of an EAF directed to a suprapostural task alters gait variability while overall measures of gait function remain unchanged. Clinicians should consider manipulating AF during gait rehabilitation interventions to manipulate age-related constraint of movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalCritical Reviews in Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


  • Age-related change
  • External focus
  • Older adults
  • Rehabilitation
  • Suprapostural task

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