Assessment of ascending and descending stairs: how many stairs are required?

Wall, J.C. and Rowe, P.J. (2009) Assessment of ascending and descending stairs: how many stairs are required? In: International Society for Posture and Gait Research, 2009-06-21 - 2009-06-25.

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This paper discusses the assessment of ascending and descending stairs. It was presented at the International Society for Posture and Gait Research conference 2009. The Time Up and Down Stairs Test (TUDS) has been suggested as a measure of functional mobility [1]. This test requires subjects to walk quickly but safely up and down a 14-step flight of stairs. Time was started when given the cue to go and stopped when the second foot returned to the floor. In order to allow for differing numbers of stairs and to separately determine ascent and descent times a method of measuring time per stair was devised. This study looks at how many stairs are needed to obtain repeatable measurements. METHODS: The sample consisted of 35 healthy young adult subjects, 23 females and 12 males, with mean age of 23.4. The stairs had a tread of 28cm and a rise of 17.5 ± 1.5cm. The number of stairs used was 4 - 8 with the sequence randomized. The subject stood with toes on a line drawn 10cm from the front edge of the first stair and asked to walk up the stairs as they would at home. A multimemory stopwatch was started when the subject was cued to start and the lap/split button was clicked on each contact with a stair and stopped when the second foot touched the top stair on ascent or the floor on descent. The first step and last step were ignored and the mean time per stair was then calculated. Data were analyzed using a repeated measures ANOVA with a Tukey post hoc test to determine differences. RESULTS: When considering the number of stairs ascended or descended there were no significant differences found in the mean time per stair measurements. When all the stair ascent data were pooled and compared to all the stair descent data a statistical difference was revealed using a Student t Test for paired data (p < 0.0001). The mean time per stair for ascent was 0.51s (SD 0.006) and for descent it was 0.47s (SD 0.006). Time per stair is a useful measure of functional mobility that allows for comparison with performance during stair ascent and descent. It also allows for comparison of data collected using different numbers of stairs. From a clinical perspective the study also suggests that a four-stair module, commonly used rehabilitation facilities, could be used for assessment purposes, provided the stairs have the appropriate tread and rise dimensions.