Locomotor-respiratory coupling patterns and oxygen consumption during walking above and below preferred stride frequency

Joseph O'Halloran*, Joseph Hamill, William J. McDermott, Jebb G. Remelius, Richard E.A. Van Emmerik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Locomotor respiratory coupling patterns in humans have been assessed on the basis of the interaction between different physiological and motor subsystems; these interactions have implications for movement economy. A complex and dynamical systems framework may provide more insight than entrainment into the variability and adaptability of these rhythms and their coupling. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between steady state locomotor-respiratory coordination dynamics and oxygen consumption (V̇O 2) of the movement by varying walking stride frequency from preferred. Twelve male participants walked on a treadmill at a selfselected speed. Stride frequency was varied from -20 to +20% of preferred stride frequency (PSF) while respiratory airflow, gas exchange variables, and stride kinematics were recorded. Discrete relative phase and return map techniques were used to evaluate the strength, stability, and variability of both frequency and phase couplings. Analysis of V̇O 2 during steady-state walking showed a U-shaped response (P = 0.002) with a minimum at PSF and PSF - 10%. Locomotor-respiratory frequency coupling strength was not greater (P = 0.375) at PSF than any other stride frequency condition. The dominant coupling across all conditions was 2:1 with greater occurrences at the lower stride frequencies. Variability in coupling was the greatest during PSF, indicating an exploration of coupling strategies to search for the coupling frequency strategy with the least oxygen consumption. Contrary to the belief that increased strength of frequency coupling would decrease oxygen consumption; these results conclude that it is the increased variability of frequency coupling that results in lower oxygen consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-940
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Frequency coupling
  • Gait
  • Movement efficiency
  • Phase coupling
  • Return maps


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