Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Exercise Science


The Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health

First Advisor

Stacy Fritz


As individuals age, there is an increase in attentional demands, a heavier reliance on vision, reduction in efficiency of both tasks, and longer processing intervals causing greater dual task interference on postural sway and walking speed. While cognitive-motor interference has been investigated, the impact of adding a functional, manual task while balancing or during gait is poorly understood across all ages. The overall purpose was to examine the relationship between age and task automaticity in dual-task conditions with a functional bimanual task, and describe how age influences attentional prioritization strategies. Older adults demonstrated differences in single and dual task performance for measurements of postural sway (center of pressure path length and 95% ellipse area) and walking speed (self-selected and fast paced walking) from adults younger than 60 years old. The dual task cost for one measurement of postural sway, the 95% ellipse area, was predicted by age, cognition, experiences with dual tasks, and the dual task cost of the bimanual task. Both self-selected and fast paced walking speeds dual task costs were predicted by functional reach and the perceived difficulty of dual tasks. Furthermore, mutual interference was experienced for all individuals during the postural sway task and fast paced walking task. Younger individuals chose to focus their attention on the selfselected walking speed while older adults experienced mutual interference more often. Therefore, single and dual task performance is related to age, however, other factors including cognition, mobility, and perceived abilities are better indicators of the dual task cost experienced by individuals during balance and walking dual tasks