Treadmills have been used in rehabilitation settings to provide convenient protocols and continuous monitoring of movement over multiple cycles at well-controlled speeds for gait and balance training. However, the potential differences in the movement control may affect the translation of the training outcomes to real life over-ground walking (OW). The similarities and differences in the balance control between treadmill walking (TW) and OW have largely been unexplored. The current study bridged the gap by comparing the motions of the body's center of mass (COM) relative to the center of pressure (COP) between TW and OW, in terms of the COM-COP inclination angle (IA) and its rate of change (RCIA). The movement of the COM and COP separately were quite different between OW and TW, but when describing the COM motion relative to the COP, the COM motions became similar qualitatively with similar butterfly patterns. However, significantly increased peak values in themediolateral RCIA and greater ranges of mediolateral IA were found during TW (p < 0.004). In the sagittal plane, the posterior velocity of the belt led to an anterior RCIA (posterior RCIA in OW) with increasing anterior IA during early double-limb support phase, and reduced posterior RCIA (p < 0.009) with an increased anterior IA (p < 0.001) during the remainder of the phase. These differences between TW and OW may have to be taken into account in future designs of strategies to optimize the translation of treadmill gait training outcomes into real life over-ground walking.
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