Treadmill stimulation improves newborn stepping

Dev Psychobiol. 2015 Mar;57(2):247-54. doi: 10.1002/dev.21270. Epub 2015 Feb 2.


To shed further light on infant stepping, we investigated whether newborns could step on a treadmill and adapt their steps to graded velocities. Twenty-one newborns (mean = 3 days) were supported for 60 s trials on a treadmill that was static or moved at 13.4, 17.2, or 23.4 cm/s. Video analysis revealed that newborns made more real steps than in-place "pumps" on the moving treadmill than on the static treadmill and made more real steps at 17.2 than 23.4 cm/s. While the treadmill had no effect on arousal, stepping increased and showed higher quality and coordination across conditions when infants were crying. These findings suggest that treadmill interventions currently used to promote the development of independent locomotion in infants at risk of delay could begin at birth. Further investigation is needed to establish the optimal conditions for newborn treadmill stepping and to specify how arousal affects step rate, quality, and coordination.

Keywords: locomotion; neonate; perceptual-motor development; walking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Infant, Newborn / psychology
  • Locomotion* / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Video Recording