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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by the frequent association of disease outside the lung. The objective of this study was to determine the presence of biomechanical gait abnormalities in COPD patients compared to healthy controls while well rested and without rest.


Patients with COPD (N = 17) and aged-matched, healthy controls (N = 21) walked at their self-selected pace down a 10-meter walkway while biomechanical gait variables were collected. A one-minute rest was given between each of the five collected trials to prevent tiredness (REST condition). Patients with COPD then walked at a self-selected pace on a treadmill until the onset of self-reported breathlessness or leg tiredness. Subjects immediately underwent gait analysis with no rest between each of the five collected trials (NO REST condition). Statistical models with and without covariates age, gender, and smoking history were used.


After adjusting for covariates, COPD patients demonstrated more ankle power absorption in mid-stance (P = 0.006) than controls during both conditions. Both groups during NO REST demonstrated increased gait speed (P = 0.04), stride length (P = 0.03), and peak hip flexion (P = 0.04) with decreased plantarflexion moment (P = 0.04) and increased knee power absorption (P = 0.04) as compared to REST. A significant interaction revealed that peak ankle dorsiflexion moment was maintained from REST to NO REST for COPD but increased for controls (P < 0.01). Stratifying by disease severity did not alter these findings, except that step width decreased in NO REST as compared to REST (P = 0.01). Standardized effect sizes of significant effects varied from 0.5 to 0.98.


Patients with COPD appear to demonstrate biomechanical gait changes at the ankle as compared to healthy controls. This was seen not only in increased peak ankle power absorption during no rest but was also demonstrated by a lack of increase in peak ankle dorsiflexion moment from the REST to the NO REST condition as compared to the healthy controls. Furthermore, a wider step width has been associated with fall risk and this could account for the increased incidence of falls in patients with COPD.


© 2015 Yentes et al.; licensee BioMed Central.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Journal Title

Respiratory Research





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Biomechanics Commons



Funded by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Open Access Fund