Energy cost and muscular activity required for propulsion during walking

Jinger S. Gottschall, Rodger Kram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


We reasoned that with an optimal aiding horizontal force, the reduction in metabolic rate would reflect the cost of generating propulsive forces during normal walking. Furthermore, the reductions in ankle extensor electromyographic (EMG) activity would indicate the propulsive muscle actions. We applied horizontal forces at the waist, ranging from 15% body weight aiding to 15% body weight impeding, while subjects walked at 1.25 m/s. With an aiding horizontal force of 10% body weight, 1) the net metabolic cost of walking decreased to a minimum of 53% of normal walking, 2) the mean EMG of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) during the propulsive phase decreased to 59% of the normal walking magnitude, and yet 3) the mean EMG of the soleus (Sol) did not decrease significantly. Our data indicate that generating horizontal propulsive forces constitutes nearly half of the metabolic cost of normal walking. Additionally, it appears that the MG plays an important role in forward propulsion, whereas the Sol does not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1766-1772
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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