Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why people choose running over walking

Date:
January 6, 2012
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Other than Olympic race walkers, people generally find it more comfortable to run than walk when they start moving at around two meters per second – about 4.5 miles per hour. Biomedical engineers have discovered why: At two meters per second, running makes better use of an important calf muscle than walking, and therefore is a much more efficient use of the muscle's – and the body's – energy.

Other than Olympic race walkers, people generally find it more comfortable to run than walk when they start moving at around 2 meters per second -- about 4.5 miles per hour.

North Carolina State University biomedical engineers Dr. Gregory Sawicki and Dr. Dominic Farris have discovered why: At 2 meters per second, running makes better use of an important calf muscle than walking, and therefore is a much more efficient use of the muscle's -- and the body's -- energy.

Published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the results stem from a first-of-its-kind study combining ultrasound imaging, high-speed motion-capture techniques and a force-measuring treadmill to examine a key calf muscle and how it behaves when people walk and run.

The study used ultrasound imaging in a unique way: A small ultrasound probe fastened to the back of the leg showed in real time the adjustments made by the muscle as study subjects walked and ran at various speeds.

The high-speed images revealed that the medial gastrocnemius muscle, a major calf muscle that attaches to the Achilles tendon, can be likened to a "clutch" that engages early in the stride, holding one end of the tendon while the body's energy is transferred to stretch it. Later, the Achilles -- the long, elastic tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg -- springs into action by releasing the stored energy in a rapid recoil to help move you.

The study showed that the muscle "speeds up," or changes its length more and more rapidly as people walk faster and faster, but in doing so provides less and less power. Working harder and providing less power means less overall muscle efficiency.

When people break into a run at about 2 meters per second, however, the study showed that the muscle "slows down," or changes its length more slowly, providing more power while working less rigorously, thereby increasing its efficiency.

"The ultrasound imaging technique allows you to separate out the movement of the muscles in the lower leg and has not been used before in this context," Farris says.

The finding sheds light on why speed walking is generally confined to the Olympics: muscles must work too inefficiently to speed walk, so the body turns to running in order to increase efficiency and comfort, and to conserve energy.

"The muscle can't catch up to the speed of the gait as you walk faster and faster," Sawicki says. "But when you shift the gait and transition from a walk to a run, that same muscle becomes almost static and doesn't seem to change its behavior very much as you run faster and faster, although we didn't test the muscle at sprinting rates."

The research could help inform the best ways of building assistive or prosthetic devices for humans, or help strength and conditioning professionals assist people who have had spinal-cord injury or a stroke, Sawicki and Farris say.

The researchers are part of NC State's Human PoWeR (Physiology of Wearable Robotics) Lab, directed by Sawicki. The joint Department of Biomedical Engineering is part of NC State's College of Engineering and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's School of Medicine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dominic James Farris and Gregory S. Sawicki. Human medial gastrocnemius force-velocity behaviour shifts with locomotion speed and gait. PNAS, January 4, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1107972109

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Why people choose running over walking." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105131655.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2012, January 6). Why people choose running over walking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105131655.htm
North Carolina State University. "Why people choose running over walking." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105131655.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Cost of Ebola

The Cost of Ebola

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 18, 2014) As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day "lockdown" in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
What HealthKit Bug Means For Your iOS Fitness Apps

What HealthKit Bug Means For Your iOS Fitness Apps

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) Apple has delayed the launch of the HealthKit app platform, citing a bug. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Food Makers Surpass Calorie-Cutting Pledge

U.S. Food Makers Surpass Calorie-Cutting Pledge

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) Sixteen large food and beverage companies in the United States that committed to cut calories in their products far surpassed their target. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Haitians receive the second dose of the vaccine against cholera as part of the UN's vaccination campaign. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins