The metabolic and mechanical consequences of altered propulsive force generation in walking.
Noah L. Pieper, Sidney T. Baudendistel, Chris J. Hass, Gabriela B. Diaz, Rebecca L. Krupenevich, Jason R. Franz
Abstract. Older adults walk with greater metabolic energy consumption than younger for reasons that are not well understood. We suspect that a distal-to-proximal redistribution of leg muscle demand, from muscles spanning the ankle to those spanning the hip, contributes to greater metabolic energy costs. Recently, we found that when younger adults using biofeedback target smaller than normal peak propulsive forces (FP), they do so via a similar redistribution of leg muscle demand during walking. This alludes to an experimental paradigm that emulates characteristics of elderly gait independent of other age-related changes relevant to metabolic energy cost. Thus, our purpose was to quantify the metabolic and limb- and joint-level mechanical energy costs associated with modulating propulsive forces during walking in younger adults. Walking with larger FP increased net metabolic power by 47% (main effect, p=0.001), which was accompanied by small but relatively uniform increases in hip, knee, and ankle joint power and which correlated with total joint power (R2=0.151, p=0.019). Walking with smaller FP increased net metabolic power by 58% (main effect, p<0.001), which was accompanied by higher step frequencies and increased total joint power due to disproportionate increases in hip joint power. Increases in hip joint power when targeting smaller than normal FP accounted for more than 65% of the variance in the measured changes in net metabolic power. Our findings suggest that walking with a diminished push-off exacts a metabolic penalty because of higher step frequencies and more total limb work due to an increased demand on proximal leg muscles.