Locomotor Training: The Effects of Treadmill Speed and Body Weight Support on Gait Kinematics

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Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training (BWSTT) is a rehabilitation method which can help individuals with incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs) regain the ability to walk. In BWSTT, a harness is used to support part of the patient's body weight above a treadmill while therapists assist the patient in performing stepping motions. Following SCI, recovery of function is achieved by reorganization of neural pathways in the spinal cord, which is dependent on task-specific rehabilitation. BWSTT is a task-specific program which focuses on replicating the forces and motions experienced during normal walking to help patients achieve recovery of walking ability. While BWSTT has shown positive results, there is no quantitative evidence for which training conditions, specifically treadmill speed and amount of body weight support, most effectively target the muscles to restore normal gait. This study will determine how varying treadmill speed and percentage of body weight support affects the kinematic gait parameters of normal walking. We collected motion capture data from 4 healthy subjects (3 male, 1 female), as they walked on an instrumented treadmill with varied body weight support (0,30,50, and 70% of weight supported) and treadmill speed (self-selected speed (SS), 0.5xSS, and 1.5xSS). We analyzed the motion capture data and developed dynamic, patient specific models using an open-source software for dynamic simulations of human movement. Inverse kinematics techniques were used to calculate joint angles and spatiotemporal gait parameters. Preliminary results suggest that high levels of body weight support cause large differences in lower extremity joint angles, particularly at the ankle. Percentage of stance during the gait cycle appears to decrease with increased body weight support, and also with increased speed. These data suggest that walking with very high levels of body weight support may not replicate normal walking conditions closely enough to produce the most effective rehabilitation strategy. The results of this study will shed insight into which BWSTT conditions cause gait kinematics to deviate from those seen in normal walking patterns. Determining the affect of specific training conditions will help therapists make more informed decisions when setting treadmill speed and body weight support levels, which could lead to the development of more efficient rehabilitation programs.


Professional Biological Sciences: 3rd Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)


Spinal Cord Injury, Gait Analysis, Locomotor Training