The strength of time-dependent correlations known as stride interval (SI) dynamics has been proposed as an indicator of neurologically healthy gait. Most recently, it has been hypothesized that these dynamics may be necessary for gait efficiency although the supporting evidence to date is scant. The current study examines over-ground SI dynamics, and their relationship with the cost of walking and physical activity levels in neurologically healthy children aged nine to 15 years. Twenty participants completed a single experimental session consisting of three phases: 10 min resting, 15 min walking and 10 min recovery. The scaling exponent (α) was used to characterize SI dynamics while net energy cost was measured using a portable metabolic cart, and physical activity levels were determined based on a 7-day recall questionnaire. No significant linear relationships were found between a and the net energy cost measures (r < .07; p > .25) or between α and physical activity levels (r = .01, p = .62). However, there was a marked reduction in the variance of α as activity levels increased. Over-ground stride dynamics do not appear to directly reflect energy conservation of gait in neurologically healthy youth. However, the reduction in the variance of α with increasing physical activity suggests a potential exercise-moderated convergence toward a level of stride interval persistence for able-bodied youth reported in the literature. This latter finding warrants further investigation.
Ellis and Chau are with the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, and Zabjek is with the Dept. of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. Sejdic is with the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.