Metabolic cost, mechanical work, and efficiency during normal walking in obese and normal-weight children

Res Q Exerc Sport. 2013 Dec;84 Suppl 2:S72-9. doi: 10.1080/02701367.2013.849159.


Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the influence of childhood obesity on energetic cost during normal walking and to determine if obese children choose a walking strategy optimizing their gait pattern.

Method: Sixteen obese children with no functional abnormalities were matched by age and gender with 16 normal-weight children. All participants were asked to walk along a nearly circular track 30 m in length at a self-selected speed. Spatiotemporal data, kinematics, and ground reaction force were collected during walking using a three-dimensional motion analysis system. Metabolic cost was collected by a portable gas analyzer simultaneously.

Results: The mechanical energy expenditure (MEE) was 72.7% higher in obese children than in normal-weight children. The net metabolic cost was 65.7% higher in obese children. No difference was found in the metabolic rate (J x kg(-1) x m(-1)), normalized MEE (J x kg(-1) x m(-1)) and mechanical efficiency between the obese and normal-weight groups. The obese children walked with a 0.15 m/s slower walking speed, 10.0% shorter cadence, and 30.9% longer double-support phase compared with normal-weight children. In addition, no differences were found in the mediolateral and vertical body center of mass displacement.

Conclusion: Body mass played a dominant role in the total metabolic and mechanical cost per stride. Obese children may adopt a walking strategy to avoid an increase in the metabolic cost and the mechanical work required to move their excess body mass.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Child
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Walking / physiology*