Japanese children learn to walk differently compared to those in other parts of the world, study finds

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The manner of walking in Japanese children develops differently from that of those in other countries, according to a new study that sheds more light on the ways body movement patterns are linked to health.

The research, published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, found that although the gait patterns of Japanese children aged 6-12 are similar to those from other developed countries, their development over the years differs.

In the study, age-related differences in lower limb movements during walking were assessed by scientists, including those from Nagoya University in Japan.

A person’s gait is a complex, unconscious motor pattern, essential for most daily activities, comprising of a sequence of movements involving the hip, knee and foot.

Researchers said gait can be critical for measuring a person’s quality of life and health status, and understanding the forces involved in gait can help treat people with movement disorders.

They found four important differences among age groups in the study.

There was an increase in the number of steps performed in one minute among children in the 11-12-year-old group, compared to children in the 6-8-year age group.

Researchers also found a decrease in step and stride length among children aged 11-12 years compared to those aged 9-10 years.

Japanese children of age 11-12 years had less range of motion of the knee during the gait cycle, scientists pointed out.

And as children aged, they observed a higher plantar flexion moment – the motion when pointing toes at the start of the walking movement.

“We believe that differences in lifestyle, build, and cultural factors all affect Japanese children’s gait,” said study co-author Tadashi Ito from the Department of Integrated Health Sciences at Nagoya University.

“This is not likely to affect the health of Japanese children. But it does indicate characteristics different from those of children in other countries. These results provide an important tool for assessing normal and pathological gait and can determine the effectiveness of orthopedic treatment and rehabilitation for gait disorders,” Dr Ito added.

Researchers believe the findings can be useful to assess developmental changes in the gait pattern and detect gait abnormalities in children.