Characteristics of preferred gait patterns: considerations for exercise prescription - Chapter 7
Gait patterns have been widely studied in different fields of science for their particular characteristics. A dynamic approach of human locomotion considers walking and running as two stable behaviours adopted spontaneously under certain levels and natures of constraints. When no constraints are imposed, people naturally prefer to walk at the typical speed (i.e., around 4.5 km.h-1) that minimises metabolic energy cost. The preferred walking speed (PWS) is also known to be an indicator of mobility and an important clinical factor in tracking impairements in motor behaviours. When constrained to move at higher speeds (e.g., being late), people naturally switch their preference to running for similar optimisation reasons (e.g., physiological, biomechanical, perceptual, attentionnal costs). Indeed, the preferred transition speed (PTS) marks the natural seperation between walking and running and consistently falls within a speed range around 7.5 km.h-1. This chapter describes the constraint-dependant spontaneous organisation of the locomotor system, specifically on the walk-to-run speed continuum. We provide examples of the possibility of long-term adaptations of preferred behaviours to specific constraints such as factors related to traditional clothing or practice. We use knowledge from studies on preferred behaviours and on the relationship between affect and exercise adherence as a backdrop to prescribing a walk exercise program with an emphasis on populations with overweight or obesity.
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