European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 12, pp 4027–4033 | Cite as

Energetics and mechanics of running men: the influence of body mass

  • Paolo TabogaEmail author
  • Stefano Lazzer
  • Rezene Fessehatsion
  • Fiorenza Agosti
  • Alessandro Sartorio
  • Pietro E. di Prampero
Original Article


We investigated the relationship between mechanical and energy cost of transport and body mass in running humans. Ten severely obese (body mass ranging from 108.5 to 172.0 kg) and 15 normal-weighted (52.0–89.0 kg) boys and men, aged 16.0–45.8 years, participated in this study. The rate of O2 consumption was measured and the subjects were filmed with four cameras for kinematic analysis, while running on a treadmill at 8 km h−1. Mass specific energy cost (C r) and external mechanical work (W ext) per unit distance were calculated and expressed in joules per kilogram per meter, efficiency (η) was then calculated as W ext × C r −1  × 100. Both mass-specific C r and W ext were found to be independent of body mass (M) (C r = 0.002 M + 3.729, n = 25, R 2 = 0.05; W ext = −0.001 M + 1.963, n = 25, R 2 = 0.01). It necessarily follows that the efficiency is also independent of M (η = −0.062 M + 53.3298, n = 25, R 2 = 0.05). The results strongly suggest that the elastic tissues of obese subjects can adapt (e.g., thickening) to the increased mass of the body thus maintaining their ability to store elastic energy, at least at 8 km h−1 speed, at the same level as the normal-weighted subjects.


Energy cost Mechanical work Obese Normal-weighted subjects 



Bioelectric impedance analysis


Body mass index (kg m−2)


Center of mass


Mass-specific energy cost of running (J kg−1 m−1)

\( C_{\text{r}}^{\text{T}} \)

Total energy cost of running (J m−1)


Fat-free mass (kg)


Fat mass (%)


Body mass (kg)


Respiratory exchange ratio


Standard deviation


Steady-state oxygen uptake (ml O2 min−1)


Mass-specific external mechanical work (J kg−1 m−1)

\( W_{\text{ext}}^{\text{T}} \)

Total external mechanical work (J m−1)


Internal mechanical work (J m−1)


Efficiency (%)



The authors acknowledge all the obese patients and normal-weighted adults, the parents of younger obese and normal-weighted adolescents for their participation to the present study and the nursing staff at the Divisions of Auxology and Metabolic Diseases, Italian Institute for Auxology, Piancavallo (VB), Italy. The study was supported by Progetti di Ricerca Corrente, Italian Institute for Auxology, Milan, Italy. Financial support of Lions Club Udine Duomo is gratefully acknowledged.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Taboga
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Stefano Lazzer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rezene Fessehatsion
    • 3
  • Fiorenza Agosti
    • 4
  • Alessandro Sartorio
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pietro E. di Prampero
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medical and Biological SciencesUniversity of UdineUdineItaly
  2. 2.School of Sport SciencesUniversity of UdineUdineItaly
  3. 3.Division of Metabolic Diseases and AuxologyIstituto Auxologico ItalianoPiancavallo (VB)Italy
  4. 4.Experimental Laboratory for Auxo-Endocrinological ResearchIstituto Auxologico ItalianoMilanItaly

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