Minimum cost of transport in human running is not ubiquitous

Cher, Pei Hua, Stewart, Ian B., & Worringham, Charles J. (2015) Minimum cost of transport in human running is not ubiquitous. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 47(2), pp. 307-314.

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This study explores recent claims that humans exhibit a minimum cost of transport (CoTmin) for running which occurs at an intermediate speed, and assesses individual physiological, gait and training characteristics.


Twelve healthy participants with varying levels of fitness and running experience ran on a treadmill at six self-selected speeds in a discontinuous protocol over three sessions. Running speed (km[middle dot]hr-1), V[spacing dot above]O2 (mL[middle dot]kg-1[middle dot]km-1), CoT (kcal[middle dot]km-1), heart rate (beats[middle dot]min-1) and cadence (steps[middle dot]min-1) were continuously measured. V[spacing dot above]O2 max was measured on a fourth testing session. The occurrence of a CoTmin was investigated and its presence or absence examined with respect to fitness, gait and training characteristics.


Five participants showed a clear CoTmin at an intermediate speed and a statistically significant (p < 0.05) quadratic CoT-speed function, while the other participants did not show such evidence. Participants were then categorized and compared with respect to the strength of evidence for a CoTmin (ClearCoTmin and NoCoTmin). The ClearCoTmin group displayed significantly higher correlation between speed and cadence; more endurance training and exercise sessions per week; than the NoCoTmin group; and a marginally non-significant but higher aerobic capacity. Some runners still showed a CoTmin at an intermediate speed even after subtraction of resting energy expenditure.


The findings confirm the existence of an optimal speed for human running, in some but not all participants. Those exhibiting a COTmin undertook a higher volume of running, ran with a cadence that was more consistently modulated with speed, and tended to be aerobically fitter. The ability to minimise the energetic cost of transport appears not to be ubiquitous feature of human running but may emerge in some individuals with extensive running experience.

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2 citations in Scopus
2 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 74134
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Running economy, Optimal speed, Human locomotion, Motion efficiency
DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000421
ISSN: 1530-0315
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > HUMAN MOVEMENT AND SPORTS SCIENCE (110600) > Exercise Physiology (110602)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2014 22:14
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 15:52

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