Journal of Applied Physiology

Energetics of walking and running: insights from simulated reduced-gravity experiments

C. T. Farley, T. A. McMahon


On Earth, a person uses about one-half as much energy to walk a mile as to run a mile. On another planet with lower gravity, would walking still be more economical than running? When people carry weights while they walk or run, energetic cost increases in proportion to the added load. It would seem to follow that if gravity were reduced, energetic cost would decrease in proportion to body weight in both gaits. However, we find that under simulated reduced gravity, the rate of energy consumption decreases in proportion to body weight during running but not during walking. When gravity is reduced by 75%, the rate of energy consumption is reduced by 72% during running but only by 33% during walking. Because reducing gravity decreases the energetic cost much more for running than for walking, walking is not the cheapest way to travel a mile at low levels of gravity. These results suggest that the link between the mechanics of locomotion and energetic cost is fundamentally different for walking and for running.