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J Exp Biol. 2008 Sep;211(Pt 17):2767-72. doi: 10.1242/jeb.020073.

The effects of gravity on human walking: a new test of the dynamic similarity hypothesis using a predictive model.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona, 1009 E. South Campus Drive, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


The dynamic similarity hypothesis (DSH) suggests that differences in animal locomotor biomechanics are due mostly to differences in size. According to the DSH, when the ratios of inertial to gravitational forces are equal between two animals that differ in size [e.g. at equal Froude numbers, where Froude = velocity2/(gravity x hip height)], their movements can be made similar by multiplying all time durations by one constant, all forces by a second constant and all linear distances by a third constant. The DSH has been generally supported by numerous comparative studies showing that as inertial forces differ (i.e. differences in the centripetal force acting on the animal due to variation in hip heights), animals walk with dynamic similarity. However, humans walking in simulated reduced gravity do not walk with dynamically similar kinematics. The simulated gravity experiments did not completely account for the effects of gravity on all body segments, and the importance of gravity in the DSH requires further examination. This study uses a kinematic model to predict the effects of gravity on human locomotion, taking into account both the effects of gravitational forces on the upper body and on the limbs. Results show that dynamic similarity is maintained in altered gravitational environments. Thus, the DSH does account for differences in the inertial forces governing locomotion (e.g. differences in hip height) as well as differences in the gravitational forces governing locomotion.

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