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ARTICLE IN PRESS

Applied Ergonomics 35 (2004) 329–335

Effects of load carriage, load position, and walking speed
on energy cost of walking
Daijiro Abea,*, Kazumasa Yanagawab, Shigemitsu Niihataa
a

Faculty of Integrated Cultures and Humanities, University of East Asia, 2-1 Ichinomiya Gakuen-cho, Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi 751-8503, Japan
b
Laboratory for Health and Sports Sciences, Hiroshima University of Economics, 5-37-1 Gion, Asaminami-ku, Hiroshima 731-0192, Japan
Received 19 September 2003; received in revised form 9 March 2004; accepted 15 March 2004

Abstract
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of load, load position, and walking speed on the energy cost of
walking per unit distance (Cw : ml/kg/m).
Methods: Eight young male subjects walked on a treadmill at various speeds with and without load in the hands, on the back, and
on the legs. The Cw values were determined from the ratio of 2-min steady-state oxygen consumption (VO2 ) above resting value
(net VO2 ) to the walking speed (v): Cw ¼ net VO2 =v:
Results: An energy-saving phenomenon was observed when the load was carried on the back at slower speeds. This phenomenon
diminished at faster speeds, particularly when walking faster than 90 m/min. It was also observed when the load was carried in the
hands at slower speeds.
Conclusions: These findings partly supported our hypothesis that an energy-saving phenomenon would be observed due to an
interaction between rotative torque around the center of body mass and excessive burden on the lower muscles as a function of
speed.
r 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Energy cost of walking; Load carriage; Load position; Walking speed

1. Introduction
Energy expenditure during walking with and without
loads has been studied previously to examine physical
and psychological tolerance as well as physiological
responses in military research (Datta and Ramanathan,
1971; Soule et al., 1978; Jones et al., 1984, 1986; Duggan
and Haisman, 1992; Legg et al., 1992). It has been
suggested that metabolic demand during walking with
load carriage increases linearly with the carrying weight
(Soule and Goldman, 1969; Soule et al., 1978; Keren
et al., 1981; Gordon et al., 1983; Francis and Hoobler,
1986). However, some researchers revealed that African
women can carry an extra-heavy load that amounts to
40% of the body mass on their head (Maloiy et al., 1986;
Charteris et al., 1989b). It was reported that the
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +81-832-57-5166; fax: +81-832-561485.
E-mail address: daijiro@po.cc.toua-u.ac.jp (D. Abe).
0003-6870/$ - see front matter r 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2004.03.008

metabolic cost while walking with loads did not
necessarily increase if the load was less than 20% of
the subject’s body mass (Charteris et al., 1989a). These
authors termed the phenomenon ‘free-ride’ (Charteris
et al., 1989b), and referred to free-ride as carrying loads
on the head. They demonstrated that free-ride diminished with an increase of carrying weight.
Charteris et al. (1989a) suggested that changes in both
step frequency and stride length are possible biomechanical mechanisms to explain free-ride. However, it is well
known that humans naturally select their own optimum
step frequency and stride length during walking and/or
running (Maloiy et al., 1986). These biomechanical
factors did not change significantly in men carrying
loads of up to 40 kg (Martin and Nelson, 1986),
suggesting that the minimum energy cost of walking
must be automatically selected to minimize energy
expenditure. This means that changes in step frequency
and stride length due to load carriage might be an
incidental phenomenon to minimize energy expenditure.

will be observed when loads are carried on the back when walking. represented as C in Fig. rotation arc. Abe et al. Subjects Eight healthy young male subjects participated in this study. It was hypothesized that the main factors affecting this phenomenon when walking with loads on the back would be due to an interaction between the following two conflicting effects (Fig. Exercise tests were performed on a level-terrained treadmill (MAT-2500. When the subjects were accustomed to walking with the gas collection mask. The physical characteristics of the subjects were 172. the effects of varying loads and load position on an energy-saving phenomenon when walking with loads on the back as a function of speed have not yet been fully studied. excessive burden on lower leg muscles. which was previously defined.9 cm and 62. Fukuda Denshi Co. the optimal step frequency of each subject was selected at each speed. 90. 2. A possible mechanism to save the energy cost of walking by the rotative torque is to save production of the propulsive force done by leg muscles. Measurements Fig. If our hypothesis is correct. Tokyo). radius of rotation.2. similar to the free-ride phenomenon. Electro-cardiogram and heart rate were monitored throughout the tests with a stress test system (ML-5000. Load weight on the back would induce rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass as a positive effect. 60. we did not attach the loads to the subjects’ heads.8 years old (19–25 yr).. the load was carried on the subjects’ backs. 2. written informed consent was obtained from each subject. C. 80. center of mass of load weight. 1. resulting in a decrease in the energy cost of walking. rotative torque functioning around the center of BM. and was then fixed for each trial. / Applied Ergonomics 35 (2004) 329–335 Furthermore. On the other hand. resulting in an increase in the energy cost of walking. F. 50. Schematic description of an interaction between rotative torque functioning around the center of body mass (BM) and excessive burden on the lower leg muscles by the load when walking: A. load carriage may put an extra burden on the postural trunk muscles and leg muscles. Methods 2. 110. 2. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of load. 1): 1. and walking speed on the energy cost of walking. E. Tokyo). Fukuda Denshi. The average age of the subjects was 21. and 120 m/min. The optimum step frequency of each subject at each speed was set with a metronome during the first minute of each trial speed on the treadmill.ARTICLE IN PRESS 330 D. These subjects were selected based on their body mass and body height in order to normalize the physical stress caused by the loads. then a phenomenon similar to free-ride. The rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass can be defined as follows: F ¼ AB  load weight. B. D.171. each subject performed at least three preliminary trials on the same treadmill at different speeds. instead. After being informed of the purpose and possible risks of this study. Load weight on the back would also put an excessive burden on the lower body muscles as a negative effect. The subjects performed 5-min trials . respectively. For the purpose of the subjects’ safety during laboratory testing. Ltd. 1.170. where F is the rotative torque and AB is a radius of rotation. load position.2 kg for body height and body mass. 100. 70. Walking speeds were set at 40.1. center of body mass. To become accustomed to treadmill walking while wearing a gas collection mask. It was also hypothesized that a phenomenon similar to free-ride would not be observed when the loads were carried in the hands and on the legs because rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass cannot be counted on as an energy-saving mechanism when walking with loads in the hands and on the legs.

Another collaborator was a well-trained cyclist. 1. The subjects wore underwear. which corresponded to approximately 10%. ml/[BM+L]/m). The Cw values obtained from the 12 kg load condition at 120 m/min tended to be higher than those obtained from the control condition. Tokyo). respectively. The average Cw values as a function of walking speed with and without loads in the hands are shown in Fig. The average Cw values for each load condition from 70 to 120 m/min. Handcarried loads were also prepared (Rythm Fighter. respectively). (1992). the average Cw values obtained from 9 and 12 kg load conditions were also lower than those obtained from the control condition (po0:01 and po0:05. Abe et al. 9. Holland).05 probability level. Mizuno. where BM is the body mass of the subjects and L is the load carriage. 2. 6. and 6 kg. For that reason. The loads were 1. respectively). respectively. shirts. Statistical significance was established at the 0. The average Cw values of the 3 and 6 kg load conditions Cw ¼ net V O2 =v: 2. Tokyo) was attached to both ankle joints.5. At 50 and 60 m/min. 2. 15 and 18 kg load conditions (approximately 25–30% of the body mass) on the back were tested at several walking speeds by two collaborators whose body mass was around 60 kg. The resting VO2 was measured on the first day just before performing the control condition. and 9 kg. the Cw values of load conditions tend to be closer to those obtained from the control condition as walking speed increased. respectively. Breath-by-breath oxygen consumption (VO2 ) was measured with a gas analyzer (Oxyconsigma. Differences in the observed Cw values at each speed were compared by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). It should be emphasized that one of the collaborators was a long-distance runner (140 4900 and 300 3500 in 5 and 10 km.3.5 kg for each hand. Cw values of each trial as a function of speed were interpolated by a quadratic equation as previously done by Zamparo et al. 3. However. The control conditions were performed with no load on the first day of the measurement sessions. were not significantly lower than those obtained from the control condition. The total weights of the loads were 6. An adjustable ankle weight (Power Age. The Cw values were determined from the ratio of the steadystate VO2 above the resting value (net VO2 ) to the walking speed (v): 331 cant F values were present. gym shorts. the steady-state VO2 could not be obtained from either collaborator. The loads were 1. and 20%. 15%. however. this subject was not included in the 6 kg load condition on the legs. Mijnhardt. Bonferroni’s multiple comparison was applied to the data to establish the significant mean differences. Data are a mean and standard deviation of error (SE). and 12 kg. although the average Cw values obtained from the 6 kg load condition seemed to be lower than those obtained from the control condition at all speeds. and 3 kg for each leg. resulting a total weight for the hands of 3. Results The average Cw values with and without loads on the back are shown in Fig.5. except 80 m/min. The measurements were done twice a week for each subject. / Applied Ergonomics 35 (2004) 329–335 at each speed with and without loads. When signifi- Fig. The average Cw values obtained from the 9 and 12 kg load conditions at 40 m/ min were significantly lower than those obtained from the control condition (po0:01). Metabolic energy cost of walking as a function of speed. No significant differences were observed in the Cw values between the control and 6 kg load conditions. Mizuno. and 4. and light-weight training shoes. we did not include heavier load conditions. thus. A single sample with an average 2-min VO2 value at each speed was calculated to obtain the values of energy cost of walking per unit distance (Cw . resulting in a total weight for the legs of 2. In the preliminary testing. socks. and the order of other load trials was randomized. 3.ARTICLE IN PRESS D. One of the subjects could not accomplish the treadmill walking with 6 kg load on his legs due to muscle soreness. particularly at faster speeds. which was calibrated before the tests with room air and reference gases of known concentrations. of the average body mass of all the subjects. Statistical analysis The results were presented as mean7standard deviation of error (SE). The load consisted of a sand bag in a backpack. . 3. 3.

/ Applied Ergonomics 35 (2004) 329–335 Fig. One of the main findings of this study was that the average Cw values of 9 and 12 kg load conditions significantly decreased at slower speeds when the load was carried on the subjects’ back (Fig. the average Cw values obtained from 12 kg load condition at 120 m/ min seemed to be higher than those of the control condition.ARTICLE IN PRESS 332 D. These statistically significant results were summarized in Table 1. The results of the present study were partly consistent with Keren et al. Maloiy et al. Discussion The effects of load carriage on the energy cost of walking per unit distance as a function of walking speed were investigated to examine the hypothesis that an . Energy cost of walking with load in hands. The average Cw values of the 6 kg load condition were significantly higher than any other condition (po0:01 except the 2 kg load condition at 40 m/min (po0:05)). These results indicated that an energy-saving phenomenon similar to free-ride depended on not only load but also walking speed. at 40 m/min were significantly lower than those obtained from the control condition (po0:05). When the average Cw values obtained from 6 kg load conditions in the hands. Data are mean and SE. the average Cw values of the control condition tended to be lower than those of the 2 and 3 kg load conditions. who investigated the effects of load carriage on energy 4. energy-saving phenomenon similar to free-ride would be observed during walking with loads on the back due to an interaction between rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass and an excessive burden on the lower leg muscles (Fig. At faster speeds. Fig. the average Cw values obtained from 2 and 3 kg load conditions on the legs were almost the same as those obtained from the control condition. particularly above 100 m/ min. information regarding walking speed was not reported. the Cw values of the leg-load condition were significantly higher than those of hand-load and/or back-load conditions at any walking speed (Fig. Data are mean and SE. on the legs. and on the back were compared. (1986) reported that the energy cost of walking did not increase significantly when the loads corresponding to 20% of the body mass were carried on the head. however. Fig. 5. It was important to note that a phenomenon similar to free-ride was not observed at faster speeds. 4. however. Abe et al. At 50 m/min the average Cw value of the 3 kg load condition was also lower than that of the 9 kg load condition (po0:05). 4 illustrates the average Cw values as a function of walking speed with and without loads on the legs. possibly due to increased rotative torque around the center of body mass at slower speeds. the excessive burden on the lower leg muscles negatively overcame the positive effect of the rotative torque at faster speeds. 1). In particular. The average Cw values of 9 kg were significantly higher than those of the control condition at 120 m/min (po0:05). po0:01). At slower walking speeds. Energy cost of walking with load on legs. These results indicated that load weight positively influenced the Cw values. (1981). This trend was observed until 80 m/min. 3. even though the ‘non-significant’ energy-saving phenomenon during walking with loads on the back was seen at those walking speeds. 2).

expenditure during walking and running. To our knowledge. — not significantly different from others. A small phase difference results in the loss of a sum of potential and kinetic energy. 1981. 3). 1963). In this study. The increased Ep would cause an increase in Ek if the transfer efficiency did not alter regardless of the carrying load. if the transfer efficiency between Ek and Ep and the time course of Ep do not alter during walking with loads. at least at slower speeds. 5. The time course of the Ek is almost out of the phase with that of the Ep during walking (Cavagna et al. thus the Ep might have also increased by the carried load in this study. (1981) argued that energy expenditure significantly increased when loads were carried on the back during walking and running. Fig.. 1986). these authors examined the effects of loads on energy expenditure at speeds faster than 107 m/min. (1995). Keren et al. Martin and Nelson. Keren et al. Our results agreed with their interpretation at faster speeds. on the back. and in the hands. However. Comparison of the Cw values obtained from 6 kg load conditions on the legs. but not at slower speeds. However. the values of energy cost of walking with loads in the hands did not increase as a function of carrying load.ARTICLE IN PRESS D. These results conflicted with several previous studies that reported energy cost of walking increased as a function of carrying load (Soule and Goldman. increased Ek caused by rotative torque might be equivalent to increased Ep : The present study also found that the average Cw values for 3 and 6 kg load carriage in the hands were significantly lower than those obtained from the control condition at slower speeds. no . Data are mean and SE. one of the most significant factors of the energy-saving mechanisms in walking is explained by an energy transfer efficiency between kinetic energy (Ek ) and gravitational potential energy (Ep ). As previously discussed by Saibene (1990) and Willems et al. The center of the body mass is located at the level of the trochanter major during upright standing. Based on the above points. 1963). This implies that the center of the body mass must have been increased by the load carried on the back. $ significantly different from 3 kg load condition and control condition. / Applied Ergonomics 35 (2004) 329–335 333 Table 1 Summary of statistically significant results Weight (kg) Speed (m/min) 40 Load on the back 6 9 12 Load in the hands 3 6 9 Load on legs 2 3 6 — 50 — 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 —  — — — — — — — — — — — — — —      — — — —    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — $ — — # — — # — — # — — # — — # — — # — — # — — # — — # Note: Significantly different from control condition only. Abe et al. and does not change much during walking (Cavagna et al.. the average Cw values of 9 kg load condition in the hands were significantly higher than those obtained from other conditions at faster speeds (Fig. 1969. however.. then Ek must increase as the increased Ep : In other words. suggesting that muscle activities must compensate for the energy loss to maintain walking speed. # significantly different from other conditions.

body shape. However. 5 clearly showed that the energy cost of walking with loads on the legs was significantly higher than other conditions at any speed. suggesting that the energy cost of walking with the same extra load on the legs must be larger than that of the load carriage in the hands and/or on the back at any walking speed. Legg (1985) subjected a load corresponding to 35% of the subjects’ body mass in the hands. particularly when walking faster than 90 m/min. it was also observed when the load was carried in the hands.ARTICLE IN PRESS 334 D. This study might be useful for military populations. the average Cw values with those loads on the legs were almost consistent with those obtained from the control condition (Fig. This result supported our interpretation that an increment of the mechanical work done by the leg muscles induced an abrupt increase in the energy cost of walking. thus. 1986) and Legg and Mahanty (1986). For practical applicability. resulting in an abrupt increase in the internal work done by the leg muscles. It is possible. . rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass may not have been an important factor as an energy-saving mechanism when the load was carried in the hands because the load weight was always located at a lower level than the center of the body mass when walking. Zamparo et al. Lejeune et al. and such internal work done by those muscles linearly increased with an increase in walking speed. forearm. The energy-saving phenomenon diminished at faster speeds. It was worth noting that the average Cw values at any speed abruptly increased when a 6 kg load was carried on the legs (Fig.9% per 100-g increase in the weight of footwear. it is assumed that energy expenditure during walking with loads in the hands was mainly spent on propulsive force at faster speeds and holding of gait at slower speeds. and friction with the ground surface. 1994). a curvature constant of the Cw  v relationship did not alter regardless of the carrying loads on the legs. that the energy cost of walking abruptly increases when the mechanical work is done by the leg muscles. Human factors such as gender difference. These results were partly similar to those reported by Jones et al. An excessive burden on leg muscles obstructed the rhythmic swinging motion. but values were not significant. Another important finding of this study was that the average Cw values with 2 and 3 kg loads on the legs tended to be higher than those obtained from the control condition. 20% of the subjects’ body mass. (1992) showed that the energy cost of walking on sand increased linearly as a function of speed. / Applied Ergonomics 35 (2004) 329–335 information is available on load carriage in the hands in addition to load on the back. In view of the anatomy of Japanese adult men. 4). a mechanism to explain the abrupt increase in the energy cost of walking when 6 kg was loaded on the legs in this study may be different from that of Lejeune et al. especially in evaluating physical tolerance and energy consumption during walking with extra loads. Willems et al. Fig. Those authors concluded that a reduction of the transformation of the Ep into kinetic energy and vice versa induced an increase in the energy cost of walking on sand. (1984. Legg (1985) reported that the physical and physiological responses during walking abruptly increased when the loads were transferred to smaller muscle groups due to peripheral muscle fatigue. (1998) suggested that there was a decrease in the efficiency of the positive work done by the muscles and an increase in the external work done when subjects walked on sand. These studies found increments in the energy cost of a 0. 4). The difference in load weight and lack of information regarding walking speed make it difficult to directly compare Legg’s study with the present one. however. not by arm muscles. but they may contribute to an efficient energy transfer between Ep and Ek when walking. It was also suggested that a phenomenon similar to free-ride was dependent on walking speed. not on the legs. an energy-saving phenomenon similar to free-ride was observed when a load was carried on the back at slower walking speeds. and aging might also play an important role in the energy cost of walking. and upper arm (Kaneko. grade of the terrain. resulting in the appearance of an energy-saving phenomenon similar to free-ride when light load is carried in the hands. Hand and arm muscles might not be direct locomotive muscles yielding propulsive force. particularly in the ‘‘lifting up’’ motion. In other words. These findings partly supported our biomechanical hypothesis that an energy-saving phenomenon similar to free-ride would be observed due to an interaction between rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass and an excessive burden on the lower leg muscles.7– 0. In other words. energy cost in the hand and arm muscles during walking must be negligibly small at slower speeds. The Ek necessary to maintain the propulsive motion must be mainly produced by leg muscles. Abe et al. At slower speeds. (1998). at most. A load of 9 kg (B15% of the body mass) yielded the largest energy-saving phenomenon at slower speeds only when the load was carried on the back. the mass of the lower leg and thigh is four-fold larger than that of the hand. meaning that the kinetic motion required to produce propulsive force must not be hindered by the load when loads are carried in the hands. field testing will be necessary to consider the effects of environmental temperature. (1995) showed that the energy cost of walking mainly depends on an alteration of internal work done by locomotive muscles. at slower speeds. In conclusion. In the present study. however. As previously discussed. It is important to note that the carrying load of this study was.

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