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Pygmy locomotion.

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Department of Muscle Physiology, I.T.B.A., C.N.R., Milan, Italy.


The hypothesis that Pygmies may differ from Caucasians in some aspects of the mechanics of locomotion was tested. A total of 13 Pygmies and 7 Caucasians were asked to walk and run on a treadmill at 4-12 km.h-1. Simultaneous metabolic measurements and three-dimensional motion analysis were performed allowing the energy expenditure and the mechanical external and internal work to be calculated. In Pygmies the metabolic energy cost was higher during walking at all speeds (P < 0.05), but tended to be lower during running (NS). The stride frequency and the internal mechanical work were higher for Pygmies at all walking (P < 0.05) and running (NS) speeds although the external mechanical work was similar. The total mechanical work for Pygmies was higher during walking (P < 0.05), but not during running and the efficiency of locomotion was similar in all subjects and speeds. The higher cost of walking in Pygmies is consistent with the allometric prediction for smaller subjects. The major determinants of the higher cost of walking was the difference in stride frequency (+9.45, SD 0.44% for Pygmies), which affected the mechanical internal work. This explains the observed higher total mechanical work of walking in Pygmies, even when the external component was the same. Most of the differences between Pygmies and Caucasians, observed during walking, tended to disappear when the speed was normalized as the Froude number. However, this was not the case for running. Thus, whereas the tested hypothesis must be rejected for walking, the data from running, do indeed suggest that Pygmies may differ in some aspects of the mechanics of locomotion.

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