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The Mechanics Of Foot Travel: With So Many Silly Gaits To Choose From, Why Have We Adopted So Few?

Date:
September 16, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Despite having the bones and muscles to perform a variety of gaits, human beings have developed an overwhelming preference for just two: walking and running. Now, computer analysis that allows simulation of infinite two-legged locomotions has shown our favored modes of bi-pedal travel use the least amount of energy.

Human gaits can vary a great deal. This animation shows the two most common human gaits, walking and running. Movement of the center of body mass (superimposed) is shown in simplified versions of the two gaits. Cornell's Manoj Srinivasan and Andy Ruina used computer simulations to compare movement of the center of body mass in multiple other strange gaits with that of the human walk and run. They found walking to be the most energy efficient at low speeds and running the most efficient at high speeds.
Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation

Despite having the bones and muscles to perform a variety of gaits,human beings have developed an overwhelming preference for just two:walking and running. Now, computer analysis that allows simulation ofinfinite two-legged locomotions has shown our favored modes of bi-pedaltravel use the least amount of energy.

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Indeed, in an article published in the current online edition of theBritish journal Nature, Cornell engineers Andy Ruina and ManojSrinivasan compare the mechanics of walking and running with "manyother strange and unpractised gaits." They used a set of computermodels that simulated physical measurements such as leg length, force,body velocity and trajectory, forward speed and work.

"We wish to find how a person can get from one place to anotherwith the least muscle work," they report. "Why do people not walk oreven run with a smooth level gait, like a waiter holding two cupsbrim-full of boiling coffee?"

The engineers' computer simulations conclude that walking issimply most energy efficient for travel at low speeds, and running isbest at higher speeds. And, they report, a third walk-run gait isoptimal for intermediate speeds, even though humans do not appear totake advantage of it.

The findings help to explain why the possible--butpreposterous--gaits in the Monty Python sketch, "Ministry of the SillyWalks," have never caught on in human locomotion. The researchers addthat extensions of this work might improve the design of prostheticdevices and energy-efficient bipedal robots.



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The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "The Mechanics Of Foot Travel: With So Many Silly Gaits To Choose From, Why Have We Adopted So Few?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050916074420.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, September 16). The Mechanics Of Foot Travel: With So Many Silly Gaits To Choose From, Why Have We Adopted So Few?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050916074420.htm
National Science Foundation. "The Mechanics Of Foot Travel: With So Many Silly Gaits To Choose From, Why Have We Adopted So Few?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050916074420.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

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