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J Exp Biol. 2005 Apr;208(Pt 8):1513-24.

A new model predicting locomotor cost from limb length via force production.

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  • Harvard University, Department of Anthropology, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. pontzer@fas.harvard.edu


Notably absent from the existing literature is an explicit biomechanical model linking limb design to the energy cost of locomotion, COL. Here, I present a simple model that predicts the rate of force production necessary to support the body and swing the limb during walking and running as a function of speed, limb length, limb proportion, excursion angle and stride frequency. The estimated rate of force production is then used to predict COL via this model following previous studies that have linked COL to force production. To test this model, oxygen consumption and kinematics were measured in nine human subjects while walking and running on a treadmill at range of speeds. Following the model, limb length, speed, excursion angle and stride frequency were used to predict the rate of force production both to support the body's center of mass and to swing the limb. Model-predicted COL was significantly correlated with observed COL, performing as well or better than contact time and Froude number as a predictor of COL for running and walking, respectively. Furthermore, the model presented here predicts relationships between COL, kinematic variables and body size that are supported by published reduced-gravity experiments and scaling studies. Results suggest the model is useful for predicting COL from anatomical and kinematic variables, and may be useful in intra- and inter-specific studies of locomotor anatomy and performance.

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