Objectives: To test the hypothesis that reducing vertical center of mass (COM) displacement will lower the metabolic cost of human walking. To examine changes in joint work associated with increasing and decreasing vertical COM movement during gait.
Design: Randomized repeated measures.
Setting: Human Neuromechanics Laboratory, University of Michigan.
Participants: Able-bodied subjects (N=10).
Interventions: Subjects walked at 1.2m/s on a treadmill and overground. Subjects manipulated vertical COM displacement either by adjusting stride length or by using visual feedback to reduce COM movement.
Main outcome measures: We measured kinematic and kinetic data to calculate vertical and lateral COM displacements, joint torques, and work. In addition, we collected oxygen consumption to calculated metabolic power.
Results: Increasing and decreasing vertical COM displacement beyond subjects' preferred range resulted in increases in the metabolic cost of walking. When vertical COM displacement was reduced, corresponding increases in positive ankle and hip work and negative knee work were observed.
Conclusions: Humans are capable of walking in a manner that will reduce COM displacement from normal. Decreasing vertical COM movement results in increases in metabolic energy costs because of greater mechanical work performed at the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Thus, reducing vertical COM movement is not a successful strategy for improving either metabolic or mechanical energy economy during normal walking by able-bodied subjects.