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Gym-goers adapt running style whilst viewing screens and displays – and use more energy in the process

Gym-goers may be over-exerting themselves on treadmills by adapting their running style to view the screens and displays on walls and equipment, a new study suggests.


Sports scientists at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Valencia investigated how running styles differed between runners who looked towards the floor, and those who looked directly ahead, with a reduced view of the floor.

The found that those who looked ahead while running on a treadmill – as you would when looking up to view a TV screen – attempted to lift their whole body and feet higher during each stride.

They also experienced greater acceleration of the head, indicative of a runner attempting to get their body higher in the air.

Runners then appeared to compensate for the impact they might experience when falling from a greater height prior to the next step, by softening their landing using their ankle and knee joints as shock absorbers.

All of these changes involve using more energy, the researchers say, and projecting bodies higher and providing more cushioning of landing meant that runners would be less efficient despite running at the same speed.

The researchers believe that runners are subconsciously adopting this strategy to avoid scuffing the floor, or in anticipation of unseen obstacles.

They argue that the same would be the case for road runners, who look ahead to identify hazards and obstacles, such as junctions, pedestrians or other runners.

“We wanted to investigate whether where someone looks affects the way they run,” said Dr Martin Lewis, researcher and lecturer in biomechanics and performance analysis of sport in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology.

He said: “It’s commonplace in gyms to have visual displays or monitors around the exercise environment or on the equipment itself. These are usually intended to motivate or distract the gym user and make the gym a more user-friendly or enjoyable place.

“It appears that when you remove a runner’s view of the floor they adopt a different way of moving to avoid trips and falls over objects which might be outside their vision.

“This has the effect of making runners less efficient in their movements.”

As well as Nottingham Trent University and the University of Valencia, the research – reported in the journal Gait and Posture, also involved Spain’s Catholic University of Murcia.

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Gym-goers adapt running style whilst viewing screens and displays – and use more energy in the process

Published on 20 October 2017
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Press office; School of Science and Technology

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