Mechanical work as an indirect measure of subjective costs influencing human movement

Karl E. Zelik, Arthur D. Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To descend a flight of stairs, would you rather walk or fall? Falling seems to have some obvious disadvantages such as the risk of pain or injury. But the preferred strategy of walking also entails a cost for the use of active muscles to perform negative work. The amount and distribution of work a person chooses to perform may, therefore, reflect a subjective valuation of the trade-offs between active muscle effort and other costs, such as pain. Here we use a simple jump landing experiment to quantify the work humans prefer to perform to dissipate the energy of landing. We found that healthy normal subjects (N = 8) preferred a strategy that involved performing 37% more negative work than minimally necessary (P

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31143
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 24 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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