Habitual Physical Activity Levels Are Associated with Biomechanical Walking Economy in Children with Cerebral Palsy
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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy the relationship between habitual physical activity and biomechanical treadmill walking economy and whether treadmill belt speed or walking time affect economy. DESIGN: Physical activity was measured in 11 subjects (10.6-16.3 yrs) with mild cerebral palsy using a triaxial accelerometer. To determine biomechanical walking economy, subjects' stride lengths and vertical sacral excursions were measured during each minute of three 3-min walks on a treadmill (at 60%, 75%, and 90% of individually determined fastest treadmill walking speed). RESULTS: Biomechanical walking economy at 60%, 75%, and 90% of (their) fastest speed each explained about half of the intersubject variance in daily physical activity (movement counts). A similar relationship was found between these biomechanical walking economy variables and movement counts at or above the 80th and 90th percentile (total minutes per day, number of 5-min bouts per day). Walking economy was 23.9% higher when subjects walked at 90% than when they walked at 60% of their fastest walking speed. No other speed-related effects on economy were found, nor did time affect economy. CONCLUSIONS: Within this population, those with high biomechanical treadmill walking economy are the more habitually physically active. Treadmill belt speed, but not walking time, affects biomechanical walking economy.
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