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Predicting metabolic cost of level walking


Energy expenditure in walking is usually expressed as a function of walking speed. However, this relationship applies only to freely adopted step length-step rate patterns. Both the step length and the step rate must be used to predict the energy expenditure for any combination of step length and step rate. Evidence on seven subjects indicates that the energy demand for such a combination can be determined by conducting two experiments. In the first, the subject is allowed to freely choose his own walking pattern to achieve a set of prescribed speeds. In the second, the speed is kept constant but the subject is forced to adopt a range of prescribed step rates. The results of the two experiments combined yield enough data to make possible the determination of the energy equation of the pattern, encompassing both “free” and “forced” gaits. Results show that the freely chosen step rate requires the least oxygen consumption at any given speed. Any other forced step rate at the same speed increases the oxygen cost over that required for the “free” step rate.

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Zarrugh, M.Y., Radcliffe, C.W. Predicting metabolic cost of level walking. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 38, 215–223 (1978).

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Key words

  • Level walking
  • Metabolic cost
  • Step length
  • Step rate