Effect of water depth on muscle activity and stride duration when walking in the water at different speeds

James David Evans, Giulia Pacini Panebianco, Stelios Psycharakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Aquatic exercise is popular for training and rehabilitation, but information on how the water depth affects muscle activity when walking is lacking. The purpose of this study was to compare muscle activity when walking on land and at knee, pelvis and xiphoid process depth in a swimming pool. Twelve participants (22±3.6 years; 70.9±14.5kg; 1.7±0.1m) walked on land and on the pool floor at each of the three depths, at a self-selected (Vself) and a maximum speed (Vmax). Mean and peak muscle activity was recorded for the rectus femoris (RF), biceps femoris (BF), medial gastrocnemius (GM), lateral gastrocnemius (GL), tibialis anterior (TA) and erector spinae (ES). Stride duration was also recorded. Stride duration decreased and activity of all muscles increased from Vself to Vmax, except peak values at xiphoid process depth. For the depth comparisons, most changes in muscle activity occurred in the RF and BF, with higher values generally occurring at knee and pelvis depth, and stride duration continually increased with depth. These findings provide useful information on the musculoskeletal demands of walking in the water that can be used to inform design and prescription of exercise programmes for rehabilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1944–1951
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number17
Early online date18 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • aquatic
  • land
  • exercise
  • electromyography
  • rehabilitation


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