You are on page 1of 7

ARTICLE IN PRESS

Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398
www.elsevier.com/locate/apergo

Ergonomic effects of load carriage on the upper and lower back on
metabolic energy cost of walking
Daijiro Abea,, Satoshi Murakib, Akira Yasukouchib
a

Faculty of Human Sciences, University of East Asia, 2-1 Ichinomiya Gakuen-cho, Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi 751-8503, Japan
Research Laboratory of Ergonomics, Faculty of Design, Kyushu University, 4-9-1 Shiobaru, Minami-ku, Fukuoka 815-8540, Japan

b

Received 19 May 2006; accepted 19 July 2007

Abstract
We examined the effects of load carriage position on the energy cost of walking defined as the ratio of the 2-min steady-state oxygen
consumption to the speed and economical speed. Fourteen healthy men walked on a treadmill at various speeds without and with load on
the lower and upper back, which corresponded to 15% of their body mass. The energy cost of walking significantly decreased during
walking with load than without load at slower speeds. A significant decrease in the energy cost of walking was also observed while
carrying the load on the upper back than on the lower back at 60–80 m/min. The economical speed significantly decreased when carrying
the load on the upper and lower back, and it was significantly correlated with body height. These findings suggest that an optimal
carrying method is evident to reduce physical stress during walking with loads.
r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Locomotion; Optimal speed; Free-ride

1. Introduction
Energy expenditure during bilateral locomotion in
humans with and without load in a variety of occupations
has been broadly investigated (e.g. Knapik et al., 2004).
There have been two completely opposite opinions with
regard to the metabolic energy cost of walking during load
carriage. One of them is that the energy expenditure during
walking increases linearly with the weight of the carrying
load (Soule and Goldman, 1969; Gordon et al., 1983;
Francis and Hoobler, 1986). In contrast, other studies have
found that the energy expenditure did not necessarily
increase in proportion to the weight of the load (Maloiy
et al., 1986; Charteris et al., 1989a, b; Heglund et al., 1995;
Stuempfle et al., 2004; Bastien et al., 2005a). For example,
it was interesting to note that the oxygen consumption did
not increase when the load was carried on the head if the
load was less than 20% of the subject’s body mass
(Charteris et al., 1989a; Heglund et al., 1995). Those
authors termed such a phenomenon as ‘free-ride.’ Bastien 
Corresponding author. Tel.: +81 832 57 5166; fax: +81 832 56 1485.

E-mail address: daijiro@toua-u.ac.jp (D. Abe).
0003-6870/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2007.07.001

et al. (2005a) recently found that a typical Nepalese porter
could carry an extraordinary load of up to 60% of the
body mass without a significant increase in energy
expenditure. These previous studies suggested the importance of the position of the load and walking speed close to
the ‘economical speed’ during load carriage (Bastien et al.,
2005b).
Abe et al. (2004) proposed that such a phenomenon
could be due to an interaction between the rotative torque
around the center of body mass treated as a positive effect
and a concomitant excessive burden on the lower leg
extremities treated as a negative effect (Fig. 1). The rotative
torque around the center of the body mass can be defined
as follows:
E ¼ AB  load weight,
where E is the rotative torque and AB is a radius of
rotation (Fig. 1). Thus, if the load position was located on
the upper or lower back, then it could be possible to adjust
the rotative torque without changing the load weight. If the
possible mechanism to explain free-ride is an interaction
between rotative torque and excessive burden on the lower
leg extremities, then the higher the position of the load, the

1963).676. 1. The sand bag . These subjects were recruited based on their similar body mass in order to equalize the physical stress imposed by the load.2. excessive burden on the lower leg muscles. Methods 2. Factors affecting economical speed seemed to be dependent on the leg length and gravity (Griffin et al. S & ME.8 years old.. To test such a mechanism. Tokyo). (2005b) discussed. gym shorts. rotative torque functioning around the center of body mass (Abe et al. The load to be carried consisted of a sand bag on a net weight of 2. C. body mass 59. The measurements were performed once a day on each subject. 2000. The subjects wore underwear. little has been unveiled in the relationship between load carriage and the economical speed. The Froude number system is calculated with leg length. 2. center of mass of load. 2(a) and (b)). To become accustomed to treadmill walking wearing a gas collection mask.2 cm. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398 393 called the economical speed or optimal speed (Falola et al. lower the energy expenditure. Evernew. center of body mass. represented as E in Fig. Bastien et al.. The most important factor of the energy-conserving mechanism during walking has been explained by the transfer efficiency between kinetic energy (Ek) and gravitational potential energy (Ep) (Cavagna et al. then the economical speed will also increase during walking with load. 1999). The subjects performed 5-min trials at each speed with and without load on the back. Minetti et al.ARTICLE IN PRESS D. as Bastien et al. One subject was excluded from a series of measurements due to a health issue. on the upper back.1.. 2004). suggesting that the body height is expected to correlate to the economical speed. rotation arc. Tokyo) with an elastic belt (Figs. Thus. The third purpose of this study was to examine how to estimate the economical speed when the load was carried. E. because the rotative torque. Subjects Fig. and it decreased gradually when walking at slower and/or faster than that speed. the first purpose of this study was to examine the effects of load carriage on the lower and upper back at various speeds on the metabolic energy cost of walking. and it is expected that leg length and body height be correlated.970. in particular. D. The economical speed may be estimated by the physical characteristics using the ‘Froude number’ system (Donelan and Kram.673. B. The speeds selected were 30–120 m/min with increments of 10 m/min.6 kg) volunteered for this study. 2. Measurements Walking tests were performed on a motor-driven treadmill (Biomill BL-1000. Informed consent from each subject and the approval from the ethical review committee were obtained. meaning that previously employed walking speeds were covered in the present study. Thus. Abe et al. Schematic description of an interaction between the rotative torque functioning around the center of body mass and the concomitant excessive burden on the lower leg muscles during walking with load on the back. however. height 170. A...0 kg position-adjustable lightweight aluminum frame (Carry-Bone EBB003. 1997). and lightweight training shoes. on a hypothesis that the body height will be the factor for estimating the economical speed. (1995) reported that the transfer efficiency between Ek and Ep became maximal at around 70–80 m/min during walking. The walking speed corresponding to the minimum energy cost per unit distance has been Fourteen healthy young male (age 20. radius of rotation. 1. shirts. will contribute to the forward propulsion (defined as horizontal acceleration of the body) during walking. AB. 2005b). It was hypothesized that the economical speed would be greater during walking with load on the upper back than carrying on the lower back and/or without load. the second purpose of this study was to examine the effects of load carriage on the economical speed. socks. The total weight of the load was set at 15% of each subject’s body mass. If the rotative torque contributes to the forward propulsion during walking. It was hypothesized that the metabolic energy cost of walking was lesser when the load was carried on the upper back of the subjects. each subject performed at least two preliminary trials on the same treadmill at several speeds. it is expected that there exists a specific speed that can minimize the metabolic energy cost of walking.

gravity and speed (Donelan and Kram. L and C) was randomized.3. Fisher’s least squares test was applied as the post hoc test. where a–c are the constants determined by the least squares with the actually observed Cw values at each walking speed. 2.’ which has been used to predict the biomechanics of legged locomotion over a wide range of body size.25 (Minetti. which was calibrated before the tests with room air and reference gases of known concentrations. the economical speed could be observed as follows: economical speed ¼ b=2a.81 m/s2). Minato Co. and is defined as follows: Froude number ¼ ðbody mass  ðwalking speedÞ2 =lÞ= ðbody mass  gÞ. 2004. The Cw was determined from the ratio Froude number ¼ ðwalking speedÞ2 =9:81l.ARTICLE IN PRESS 394 D. The estimated economical speed can be obtained using the ‘Froude number.. The estimated economical speed was then obtained as follows: Estimated economical speed ¼ 1:566l 0:5 . Position-adjustable aluminum frame.. The relationship between walking speed and Cw can be mathematically described as the following equation: C w ¼ aðwalking speedÞ2 þ bðwalking speedÞ þ c. a differential equation of the original quadratic equation of each experimental condition could be described as follows: C w 0 ¼ 2aðwalking speedÞ þ b. Each subject chose a preferred step frequency at each experimental condition. Back view (a) and side view (b). A single sample with an average 2-min V_ O2 value at each walking speed was calculated to obtain the values of energy cost of walking per unit distance (Cw in ml/body mass+load/meter). Thus. The control condition (C) was prepared with no load and the order of three load conditions (U. The relationships between body height and economical speed in each condition were evaluated by a . (1992).. When the significant F values were present. 2. Osaka). Abe et al. defined from the trocanter major to the ground. and g the gravitational acceleration (9. this equation can be shortened as follows: Fig. The walking speed at which the highest exchange between Ep and Ek occurred was when the Froude number was 0. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398 of the steady-state V_ O2 to the walking speed in m/min: C w ¼ V_ O2 =walking speed: As shown by previous studies (Zamparo et al. That is. Abe et al. Statistical analysis Cw values of each trial as function of speed were interpolated by a quadratic equation as previously done by Zamparo et al. For human walking. The economical speed was then determined at the speed when C w 0 equals zero. Ltd. 1997). the relationship between walking speed and Cw can be approximated by a U-shaped quadratic equation. where l is the leg length. Differences in the observed Cw values at each walking speed were compared by one-way analysis of variance. the inertial force commonly employed is the centripetal force.. 2001). meaning that there exists a specific walking speed corresponding to the minimum energy cost per unit distance. Therefore. was placed at the upper (U) and lower (L) end of the frame. 1992. Bastien et al. 2005b). The Froude number has been considered to be a dimensionless ratio of inertial force to the gravitational force. Breath-by-breath oxygen consumption (V_ O2 in ml/kg/ min) was measured with a gas analyzer (AE-300S.

the correlation coefficients of the quadratic relationship between Cw and walking speed ranged from 0.172. Compared to the C condition.99 in all subjects.9 m/min) was significantly greater than the economical speed obtained during the C condition. the Cw values obtained from L and U conditions were significantly lower than those obtained from the C condition. Significant relationships were also observed between the economical speed obtained during the C condition and estimated economical speed (Fig. At 60–80 m/min. 4. . The Cw values were significantly lower in the U condition than in the L condition at 60–80 m/min. Fig.93 to 0.173.4% for the U and L conditions. although the average estimated economical speed (88. # significant difference between the L and U conditions. Results The statistical results are summarized in Table 1. but not during the L condition (Fig.8.ARTICLE IN PRESS D. A significant difference for the economical speed was observed between C and other conditions. and C conditions were 77. Table 1 Summary of statistically significant results Cw Speed (m/min) 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 L Condition U Condition * * * * * * *# *# # *# # *# – * – * – – – – *Significantly different from the control condition. The statistical significance was established at the 0. and C conditions. 78. We examined the effects of load position on the energy cost of walking per unit distance as a function of speed. However. respectively. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398 simple regression analysis. Abe et al. L. because the Cw values obtained from four subjects always appeared to be a ‘collapsed U-shape’ in each condition. 4(a) and (c)). 3. Relationships between body height and the individual’s economical speed.873. the result of the present Fig. 4.4 m/min.472. The economical speeds for U. 3 shows the relationship between the walking speed and Cw for the three conditions. – not significantly different from other conditions. There was a significant linear relationship between the body height and economical speed obtained during the U and C conditions (Figs. In support of our first hypothesis. Metabolic energy cost of walking (Cw) as a function of walking speed. The regression line for the average data did not seem to be an ideal quadratic shape.05 probability level. and 81.473. This trend was observed until 60 m/min in the L condition and 100 m/min in the U condition (Fig. L. 4(b)). Each panel represents the U. 3). Discussion Fig. respectively.9% and 4. A comparison between the economical speed obtained from the C condition and the estimated economical speed was evaluated using a t-test. 5). 395 3.472. Statistically significant results were summarized in Table 1. the percent decreases in the economical speeds were 4.8.

. It resulted in a leftward shift of the U-shaped curved line for the relationship between Cw values and walking speed. (1963). However. 4(a) and (c)). the experimental setup of this study was especially characterized by the fact that the difference of the load position could induce an experimental manipulation of the rotative torque functioning around the center of the body mass without a difference of the vertical load on the legs (Fig. 1995). It goes without saying that the increased Ep could be larger in the U than in the L condition. Sasaki and Neptune. and was consistent with the result of Bastien et al. 2004). It was recently reported that the recoil of the elastic energy acted as one of the energy-conserving mechanisms (Fukunaga et al. assuming that the increased Ep could. There were no significant differences in the economical speed between U and L conditions. This was a logical outcome because the body height and leg length were correlated (r ¼ 0.ARTICLE IN PRESS 396 D. although the economical speed obtained from the C condition was significantly higher than that obtained from other conditions. meaning that the change in the economical speed by the load carriage could be practically negligible. 5 further showed a significant relationship between the economical speed obtained from the C condition and estimated economical speed. Fig. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398 Fig.. 3).. 1969. Indeed. to a greater or lesser extent. The results of the present study were secondly characterized by the fact that the economical speed was significantly lower by around 4% when the load was carried on the back. Previous studies have examined the metabolic responses for different carrying methods and the weight of the load carriage (Soule and Goldman. but not at faster speeds. It was also interesting to note that the economical speed was significantly correlated with body height in the U and C conditions (Figs. 4(b)). Orendurff et al. Our first hypothesis was that the vertical load as an excessive burden could induce a negative effect for the forward propulsion due to the requirement of more energy expenditure by the lower leg muscles. 2007. 2005. 3 and Table 1). the Cw values were significantly lower in the U and L conditions at slower speeds than in the C condition. (2004). 2004). but not in the L condition (Fig.. 1). Abe et al. 2006). In other words. it was well known that the highest transfer efficiency between Ep and Ek was observed at around 60–80 m/min in adult men (Minetti et al. 1985. Thus.473. 2004.05). 2003. study was primarily characterized by the finding that significantly lower Cw values were observed in the U condition than in the L condition at 60–80 m/min (Fig. Relationship of the economical speeds obtained during the C condition and Froude number system. and it would save energy expenditure during walking with load on the upper back at around 60–80 m/min. the increased rotative torque functioning around the center of body mass would contribute to an increase in the Ek in the U condition than in the L condition. Kinoshita. 1995. Lichtwark et al. and it was assumed that the most significant factor affecting the energy-conserving mechanism during walking was explained by the pendulum-like energy transfer efficiency between Ep and Ek. The result of the present study also confirmed that lower Cw values were observed in the loaded conditions than in the unloaded condition (Abe et al. Thus.. (2005b). The difference between these conditions was expected to yield a difference in the production of the rotative torque (Fig. There has been no information available for a conventional estimation of the . As discussed before. indicating that the Ep must have also increased in the U and L conditions than in the C condition. 2001. It was considered that the economical speed obtained from each condition ranged around 80 m/min. have contributed to an increase in Ek in our study. As reported by Cavagna et al. the third hypothesis of this study was partly supported. 1986. The increased Ep could cause an increase in Ek if the transfer efficiency between Ep and Ek did not alter regardless of the load carriage.93. Dotted line indicated identity line. The present study suggests that the economical speed was influenced by the body height. These results are partly consistent with that of Stuempfle et al. both the total mass and height of the center of mass in the U and L conditions increased compared to that of the C condition because the load was carried on the back. po0. Francis and Hoobler. The economical speed without load obtained from the C condition was 81. Willems et al.. if the recoil of the elastic energy could be counted on as one of the energy-conserving mechanisms during walking regardless of the walking speed. then the vertical load might also contribute as one of the energy-conserving factors during walking by way of such physiological mechanisms. 1).4 m/min. Abe et al. Hong and Cheung. because the load was located relatively higher in the U condition than in the L condition. In the present study.. When obtaining the economical speed from the quadratic relationship between walking speed and Cw values (Fig. Stuempfle et al. 5.. the second hypothesis of this study was rejected. the time courses of the gravitational potential energy (Ep) and kinetic energy (Ek) were almost out of phase during walking.

J. K. For another practical application of the result of the present study for occupational safety and/or military purposes. F. D. 1997... 2001). the heavier load should be located on the upper back during walking.. R.. 2007. 1985). B 268. Griffin et al.. The ‘free-ride’ hypothesis: a second look at the efficiency of African women headload carriers. In vivo behaviour of human muscle tendon during walking. Gordon. S. B. Ergonomics 32.A. Heglund.. The effect of reduced gravity on the kinematics of human walking: a test of the dynamic similarity hypothesis for locomotion. being associated with slower walking speeds at around 60–80 m/min. C. J.M. Sci. Walking in simulated reduced gravity: mechanical energy fluctuations and exchange. M. Fukunaga. 289–298. Exp.. A conventional estimation for the economical speed was also possible in the U condition (Fig..A. 1983. Biol.. 5). R.001. External work in walking.. Nottrodt.. the forward propulsion due to the rotative torque will be cancelled. it is assumed that the relative importance of the muscle strength necessary to fight against the gravity could be smaller in the simulated reduced gravity environment than that on the earth. D. Donelan.. Skills 91. 1997..M.C. 3193–3201.. Kanehisa..A. The present results indicated that the load should be carried on the upper back at speeds of 60–80 m/min to reduce physiological stress. Effect of load and speed on the energetic cost of human walking. Maganaris. Kawakami.. 2007). Schepens. J. Graham. Comparison between load carriage and grade walking on a treadmill. T.. Goslin. That will be also available for reducing early onset of fatigue. Sports.. Appl. Effects of load carriage.06. Heglund.. N. Willems. 2000. Ergonomic effects of load carriage on energy cost of gradient walking.. These results suggest that the estimation of the economical speed in the simulated added gravity environment needs some attention. Bastien. doi:10. J. Margaria.208... Y. it is important to note that the free-ride phenomenon requires a particular condition that the load weight was less than 20% of the body mass carried on the head or on the back (Charteris et al.. J. 4(b)). Abe et al. S. previous studies neglected the subjects’ muscle strength of the lower leg extremities and/or the difference of the body dimension in relation to the racial difference when assessing the Froude number (Donelan and Kram.25 might not be appropriate to estimate the economical speed at 1 times gravity. G. 329–335.W. Fukashiro. P. Science.N. A. 1–9. 1989a.C. this resulted in overestimates of economical speed. 68–71. 86. References Abe. J. Ergon. R. 2001. R..M. rather than the normal backpack system. Hoare.. Brisswalter. Note that the at 0. B.2007. Science 308. Minetti.A. However. Optimization characteristics of walking with and without a load on the trunk of the body. Physiol. Muraki. Appl. The Froude number system could be a potential tool for estimating the economical speed. Scott. load position. 1755. 397 5. Culture. Hoobler. Charteris. . but not in the L condition (Fig.. Delpech. A significant decrease in the economical speed was observed when the load was carried on the back regardless of the location of the load. Niihata. The observed economical speed was significantly correlated with the simulated economical speed obtained by the Froude number system.apergo. T. Eur. S. 35. J. 2005b. If the average leg length (0.J..J. 76–83. Ergon. Conclusion Significantly lower values of the energy cost of walking per unit distance were observed when the load was carried on the upper back than on the lower back at 60–80 m/min. Yasukouchi.. G. Appl.. P. Physiol. 383–390.. 18.. S.. suggesting that the doublepack system. Information about the alteration of the energy expenditure by the load position could be available for reducing early onset of fatigue during working. The Froude number system derived from the dynamic similarity hypothesis was established based on the simulated reduced gravity environment.. can be recommended for carrying the load if the load weight exceeds more than 20% of the body mass. K... Appl.. Metabolic and kinematic responses of African women headload carriers under controlled conditions of load and speed. which were observed in our study. and walking speed on energy cost of walking. In particular. 2005a. Nottrodt. Cavagna. B.. 1989a. However. Charteris.1016/j.. it was pointed out that the economical speed obtained from estimation by the Froude number system was considerably higher than that obtained from control condition (Fig. 4(c)). 2004. J. Ergonomics 29. P. in press. J.. Lond. were used to calculate the Froude number. J. A conventional estimation of the individual economical speed will be useful for reducing the early onset of fatigue. (2005b).357 m/s).. Kubo. 1963. If the doublepack system is employed during walking with load. Soc. K.ARTICLE IN PRESS D.. Francis. Percept. P. 17770217 to DA) and in part by the Nakatomi Foundation (to DA). Bastien. Kram. Ergonomics 26. this study showed possible information to estimate the individual’s economical speed based on the body height and/or leg length. 2004. and Technology (Grant no. Physiol. 1985). That is. 1999. N. However. 1539–1550. 1989b. Tolani. T.901 m) and economical speed (1. then the average value of the Froude number became 0. Scott. This lower Froude number was further supported by the results of Bastien et al. H.. 229–233. 200. Energetics of load carrying in Nepalese porters. 1999. 85.. N.W. G.J. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398 economical speed. Here. Abe et al.. Proc. Appl.A. 261–272.R. Willems. 1986. Kram. J. Mot. N. Based on the dynamic similarity hypothesis. Changes in oxygen consumption associated with treadmill walking and running with light hand-carried weights. Griffin. The carrying method with load on the back and in front of the body is called ‘doublepack system’ (Kinoshita. 999–1004. Afr. the body posture and gait pattern for the doublepack system were quite similar to those for the normal walking (Kinoshita. J. Abe. Yanagawa.A.. J.P.. Saibene. T. Acknowledgements This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientist (B) from the Japan Ministry of Education. Falola.. 94. Schepens.

J.M. R. 383–390... L. Cavagna.D. 157–164.. 1194–1202. 191–198. Saibene. 27. Biol. H. Ferretti. 1986. Minetti.... physiological. Orizio.E. Physiol. Soldier load carriage: historical. G. . di Prampero. G. Cheung. D.C.S. Gait Posture 21.. Reynolds. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 392–398 Heglund. J. Harman. Acta Astronaut. 2004.. Appl. K. J. External. Energetic cost of carrying loads: have African women discovered an economic way? Nature 319. E. Hong. Zamparo.. 28–33.. Willems.. Med.R. 1985. P. 1995.. R. and medical aspects. M. 183–187.. G. A. biomechanical..G.E. 49. 1995. internal and total work in human locomotion. K. Sports Exerc.L. C. 169. A.F. Dorociak.ARTICLE IN PRESS 398 D. 157–163. Muscle fascicle and series elastic element length changes along the length of the human gastrocnemius during walking and running.. Heglund. length and velocity during walking. Wilson. G.. Goldman. 2005. A. 40. R. Eur.. Prager. 379–393..A. Heglund.D. Mil. Aiona.K. R. Kinoshita. The energy cost of walking or running on sand. Segal. Ergonomics 28.J. C. C. 27. G. Zamparo. Energy cost of loads carried on the head.. Exp. or feet.M.C.E. Gait Posture 17. hands. Sacher.D. P. Effects of different loads and carrying systems on selected biomechanical parameters describing walking gait. Willems. 2003. Capelli. Orendurff.. Physiol.. Gait Posture 23. 52–54. Effect of load position on physiological and perceptual responses during load carriage with an internal frame backpack.. 2006. Sasaki.. 2004. Med.. C. N. Penta.. 65.L. Gait and posture responses to backpack load during level walking in children.A..R.. P.. K. Knapik.. Abe et al. Soule.M.A.A. 2007..G. G. M. N. Triceps surae force. Y. Effects of stride frequency on mechanical power and energy expenditure of walking.. 1969. 1995.A. Maloiy.. Appl..A. J. Energysaving mechanics with head-supported loads. Taylor. Sci. Muscle mechanical work and elastic energy utilization during walking and running near the preferred gait transition speed. 2001. Bougoulias. Wilson.. 1347–1362. M. Minetti. Cavagna. A. 687–690. 668–669. 784–789. Neptune.C. Lichtwark... A.. F..J.. 1992. J. Stuempfle. K. Ergonomics 47. 198. R. Cavagna. P. Drury. 45–56.. N.. Perini. P. Nature 375... Invariant aspects of human locomotion in different gravitational environments. M. Biomech.