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In very young children, immature control of posture and gait results in unsteady locomotion. By about three years of age, gait appears relatively mature; however, it is unknown whether the dynamics of walking change beyond this age. Because stride dynamics depend on neural control, we hypothesized that gait dynamics would continue to develop beyond age three. To test this hypothesis, we measured the gait cycle duration on a stride-by-stride basis in fifty healthy children (25 girls) ages 3 to 14 years old. Measures of stride-to-stride variability were significantly larger both in the 3 and 4 year olds compared to the 6 and 7 year olds and in the 6 and 7 year olds compared to the 11 to 14 year olds. Measures of the temporal organization of gait also revealed significant age-dependent changes. The effects of age persisted even after adjusting for height. These findings indicate that mature stride dynamics may not be completely developed even in healthy 7 year old children and that different aspects of stride dynamics mature at different ages.

Key Words: age, walking, spectral analysis, fractal analysis