Variations in plantar pressure variables across five cardiovascular exercises

Purpose: To quantify variations in plantar pressure variables in healthy adults across five cardiovascular exercises.

Methods: Ten young (19-35 yr old) and 10 middle-aged (45-60 yr old) individuals participated. After equipment familiarization, plantar pressure data were recorded during walking, running, elliptical training, stair climbing, and recumbent biking. Separate one-way analyses of variance with repeated measures identified significant differences in pressure variables across exercises and between age groups under the forefoot, arch, and heel.

Results: Forefoot: Peak pressures were higher during walking (253 kPa), running (251 kPa), and elliptical training (213 kPa) than stair climbing (130 kPa) and recumbent biking (41 kPa; P < or = 0.001). Biking pressures were lower than all other conditions (P < 0.001). Arch: Pressures were higher during running (144 kPa) compared with all other conditions (P < or = 0.001). Intermediate-level pressures during walking (119 kPa) and elliptical training (102 kPa) exceeded those during stair climbing (80 kPa; P < or = 0.002). Pressures were lowest during recumbent biking (33 kPa; P < 0.001). Heel: Pressures were highest during walking (215 kPa) and running (188 kPa), exceeding those recorded during all other activities (P < 0.001). Moderate elliptical training pressures (94 kPa) surpassed stair climbing values (66 kPa; P = 0.014). Pressures were lowest during recumbent biking (25 kPa; P < 0.001). The only significant difference identified between age groups was a larger arch contact area in the young compared with middle-aged, when averaged across exercises (P = 0.011).

Conclusions: When protection of the forefoot is important (e.g., diabetic foot neuropathies), biking and stair climbing offer optimal pressure reductions. If protecting the heel from high pressures and forces is warranted, recumbent biking, stair climbing, and elliptical training provide greater relief.

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