Saturday, 1 September 2007

The evolution of human running: Effects of changes in lower-limb length on locomotor economy

Previous studies have differed in expectations about whether long limbs should increase or decrease the energetic cost of locomotion. It has recently been shown that relatively longer lower limbs (relative to body mass) reduce the energetic cost of human walking. Here we report on whether a relationship exists between limb length and cost of human running. Subjects whose measured lower-limb lengths were relatively long or short for their mass (as judged by deviations from predicted values based on a regression of lower-limb length on body mass) were selected. Eighteen human subjects rested in a seated position and ran on a treadmill at 2.68 m s−1 while their expired gases were collected and analyzed; stride length was determined from videotapes. We found significant negative relationships between relative lower-limb length and two measures of cost. The partial correlation between net cost of transport and lower-limb length controlling for body mass was r = −0.69 (p = 0.002). The partial correlation between the gross cost of locomotion at 2.68 m s−1 and lower-limb length controlling for body mass was r = −0.61 (p = 0.009). Thus, subjects with relatively longer lower limbs tend to have lower locomotor costs than those with relatively shorter lower limbs, similar to the results found for human walking. Contrary to general expectation, a linear relationship between stride length and lower-limb length was not found.

Steudel-Numbers, K. L. Weaver, T. D. Wall-Scheffler,C. M. (2007)Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA

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