Why is walker-assisted gait metabolically expensive?
ABSTRACT Walker-assisted gait is reported to be ∼200% more metabolically expensive than normal bipedal walking. However, previous studies compared different walking speeds. Here, we compared the metabolic power consumption and basic stride temporal-spatial parameters for 10 young, healthy adults walking without assistance and using 2-wheeled (2W), 4-wheeled (4W) and 4-footed (4F) walker devices, all at the same speed, 0.30m/s. We also measured the metabolic power demand for walking without any assistive device using a step-to gait at 0.30m/s, walking normally at 1.25m/s, and for repeated lifting of the 4F walker mimicking the lifting pattern used during 4F walker-assisted gait. Similar to previous studies, we found that the cost per distance walked was 217% greater with a 4F walker at 0.30m/s compared to unassisted, bipedal walking at 1.25m/s. Compared at the same speed, 0.30m/s, using a 4F walker was still 82%, 74%, and 55% energetically more expensive than walking unassisted, with a 4W walker and a 2W walker respectively. The sum of the metabolic cost of step-to walking plus the cost of lifting itself was equivalent to the cost of walking with a 4F walker. Thus, we deduce that the high cost of 4F walker assisted gait is due to three factors: the slow walking speed, the step-to gait pattern and the repeated lifting of the walker.