Fore-aft resistance applied at the center of mass using a novel robotic interface proportionately increases propulsive force generation in healthy nonimpaired individuals walking at a constant speed

Academic Article


  • © 2019 The Author(s). Background: Past studies have utilized external interfaces like resistive bands and motor-generated pulling systems to increase limb propulsion during walking on a motorized treadmill. However, assessing changes in limb propulsion against increasing resistance demands during self-controlled walking has not been undertaken. Purpose: We assessed limb propulsion against increasing fore-aft loading demands by applying graded fore-aft (FA) resistance at the center of mass during walking in a novel, intent-driven treadmill environment that allowed participants to control their walking speeds. We hypothesized that to maintain a target speed against progressively increasing resistance, participants would proportionately increase their limb propulsion without increasing vertical force production, with accompanying increases in trailing limb angle and positive joint work. Methods: Seventeen healthy-nonimpaired participants (mean age 52 yrs., SD = 11) walked at a target, self-controlled speed of 1.0 m/s against 10, 15, 20, and 25% (% body weight) FA resistance levels. We primarily assessed linear slope values across FA resistance levels for mean propulsive force and impulse and vertical impulse of the dominant limb using one-sample t-tests. We further assessed changes in trailing and leading limb angles and joint work using one-way ANOVAs. Results: Participants maintained their target velocity within an a priori defined acceptable range of 1.0 m/s ± 0.2. They significantly increased propulsion proportional to FA resistance (propulsive force mean slope = 2.45, SD = 0.7, t (16) =14.44, p < 0.01; and propulsive impulse mean slope = 0.7, SD = 0.25, t (16) = 11.84, p < 0.01), but had no changes in vertical impulse (mean slope = - 0.04, SD =0.17, p > 0.05) across FA resistance levels. Mean trailing limb angle increased from 24.3° at 10% resistance to 27.4° at 25% (p < 0.05); leading limb angle decreased from - 18.4° to - 12.6° (p < 0.05). We also observed increases in total positive limb work (F (1.7, 26) = 16.88, p ≤ 0.001, η2 = 0.5), primarily attributed to the hip and ankle joints. Conclusions: FA resistance applied during self-driven walking resulted in increased propulsive-force output of healthy-nonimpaired individuals with accompanying biomechanical changes that facilitated greater limb propulsion. Future rehabilitation interventions for neurological populations may be able to utilize this principle to design task-specific interventions like progressive strength training and workload manipulation during aerobic training for improving walking function.
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    Author List

  • Naidu A; Graham SA; Brown DA
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • 1