Researchers Decode the Foot Position's Role in Maintaining Balance
[Source: Medical News Today]
Researchers at The Ohio State University have gained new insight into how the body moves when we’re walking. They learned everything they needed to know by watching people walk naturally on a treadmill.
In normal walking, humans place their foot at slightly different positions on each step. To the untrained eye, this step-to-step variation in foot position just looks random and noisy. But in the journal Biology Letters, the researchers describe a mathematical model that can explain over 80 percent of this apparent randomness in the location of a person’s next step, based only on tiny variations in the movement of that person’s pelvis.
Every step we take is a balancing act as the body falls forward and sideways, explained Manoj Srinivasan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the head of the Movement Lab at Ohio State.
“We were able to show that the next foot position can be predicted way in advance of when the foot is placed – as early as the middle of the previous step – based on how the body is falling,” he said. “Nobody knew that such high predictability was possible with such a simple model and with only normal walking data.”
What they learned may one day inform the design of assistive exoskeletons or walking robots – or just help doctors diagnose and treat balance problems.
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