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  1. Shinohara, Tomoyuki PhD


Background and Purpose: Walking speed can be used to identify characteristics of frailty in older adults. It has a strong positive correlation with balance abilities. The Brief-Balance Evaluation Systems Test (Brief-BESTest) was developed to assess functions of the 6 balance control systems in a short time. However, for community-dwelling older adults, the relationship between walking speed and the Brief-BESTest needs to be clarified. Even the cutoff scores for each Brief-BESTest section should be indicated for physical therapists to effectively evaluate balance deficits. Our objective was to establish cutoff scores for individual Brief-BESTest sections, determine fast or slow walkers in community-dwelling older adults, and investigate the relationship between balance control systems and walking speed.


Methods: In a cross-sectional study involving 55 participants 77 years and older, the Brief-BESTest was evaluated after grouping the participants based on their walking speeds in public community centers. We compared the age, history of falls, handgrip strength, quadriceps strength, appendicular skeletal muscle mass index, comfortable walking speeds, and the Brief-BESTest scores between the fast- and slow-walking groups by using the independent t test, Fisher exact test, or Mann-Whitney U test. We also determined the receiver operating characteristic curves, and calculated the cutoff, area under the curve (AUC), sensitivity, and specificity of each section.


Results: All sections of the Brief-BESTest, except Section 1 (Biomechanical Constraints) were able to differentiate between fast and slow walkers in community-dwelling older women. Section VI (Stability in Gait) showed the highest AUC (0.83) and the cutoff score for the fast- and slow-walker groups was 3.0 points (sensitivity = 0.85, specificity = 0.81). Sections III, IV, and V (Anticipatory, Reactive, and Sensory Orientation, respectively) had moderate AUC (0.71-0.72). Sections I and II (Stability Limits) showed weak correlations with the walking speed.


Conclusions: Three sections (III, anticipatory postural adjustments; IV, reactive postural responses; and VI, stability in gait) could differentiate between fast and slow walkers. Section VI was a particularly important balance function measurement that differentiated the walking speed with the highest accuracy. Therefore, it should be a primary focus when physical therapists treat community-dwelling older adults.