Give Now

A Moment of Science

Walking Is Not As Simple As It Looks…

You may have noticed how often you spill a drink on yourself while walking. Walking is a very complex process and is not as smooth as it looks.

walking_093

Photo: UW-IAP (Flickr)

Walking is a complex series of motions. These hikers should be careful because one wrong movement and they are in trouble.

You’re at a party. Somebody hands you a glass. Hey, come on over here! Somebody else shouts. You take a step and the next thing you know you are wearing that tasty beverage.

But why? When we walk, we keep our torsos straight, don’t we? Walking feels entirely steady and constant. So why is it so hard to carry a liquid?

Try This At Home!

If you doubt the difficulty of this exercise, we suggest you try filling up a bucket with water and carrying it at chest level without spilling any. But try it outside first!

The answer is that although we feel ourselves to be quite steady when we walk, in truth that is anything but the case.

When you walk your torso bobs in all directions.

How We Walk

Walking is a complex muscular phenomenon that amounts to allowing yourself to fall slightly forward and then preventing yourself from falling completely by extending your foot.

The extended foot halts the motion which was begun partly by gravity and partly by the pushing of the other foot.

Now the torso moves over the base of the resting foot which, once the torso has passed it, begins pushing it into a forward fall again until the other foot arrests the motion.

Swaying While Walking

On top of this, we must also constantly prevent ourselves from falling sideways by flexing and releasing the gluteus muscles around our buttocks and hips. That’s why people sway as well when they walk.

This is what walking is: not the smooth, undifferentiated motion that it seems to be, but an ongoing series of up-down, start-stop, and side-to-side maneuvers. No wonder drinks fly!

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science