Joint forces and torques when walking in shallow water

J Biomech. 2011 Apr 7;44(6):1170-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.01.017. Epub 2011 Feb 22.


This study reports for the first time an estimation of the internal net joint forces and torques on adults' lower limbs and pelvis when walking in shallow water, taking into account the drag forces generated by the movement of their bodies in the water and the equivalent data when they walk on land. A force plate and a video camera were used to perform a two-dimensional gait analysis at the sagittal plane of 10 healthy young adults walking at comfortable speeds on land and in water at a chest-high level. We estimated the drag force on each body segment and the joint forces and torques at the ankle, knee, and hip of the right side of their bodies using inverse dynamics. The observed subjects' apparent weight in water was about 35% of their weight on land and they were about 2.7 times slower when walking in water. When the subjects walked in water compared with walking on land, there were no differences in the angular displacements but there was a significant reduction in the joint torques which was related to the water's depth. The greatest reduction was observed for the ankle and then the knee and no reduction was observed for the hip. All joint powers were significantly reduced in water. The compressive and shear joint forces were on average about three times lower during walking in water than on land. These quantitative results substantiate the use of water as a safe environment for practicing low-impact exercises, particularly walking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pelvis / physiopathology*
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Water*


  • Water