Energetic Cost and Stability During Human Walking at the Preferred Stride Velocity

J Mot Behav. 1995 Jun;27(2):164-178. doi: 10.1080/00222895.1995.9941708.


The possibility that preferred modes of locomotion emerge from dynamical and optimality constraints and the energetic and dynamical constraints on preferred and predicted walking frequency are explored in this article. Participants were required to walk on a treadmill at their preferred frequency, at a frequency predicted as the resonance of a hybrid pendulum-spring model of the legs, and at frequencies +/-15%, +/-25%, +/-35% of the predicted frequency. Walking at the preferred and predicted frequencies resulted in minimal metabolic costs and maximal stability of the head and joint actions. Mechanical energy conservation was constant across conditions. The head was more stable than the joints. The joints appeared to be in service of the head in maintaining a stable trajectory. The major findings of this study suggest a complementary relationship between energetic (physiological) and stability constraints in the adoption of a preferred frequency of walking. Multiple subsystems may be involved in constraining observed macroscopic behavior in intact biological systems. The approach and results of the study imply that a useful tack in understanding how dynamical control structures arise is to study the potential criteria that serve to act as constraints on skilled movement patterns in unimpaired and impaired populations.