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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gender differences in walking with respect to movement of the pelvis Johansen, Michelle Kirsten


Biological gender differences in walking and running have seldom been explored. Historically, women have been described as being less able to effectively perform the tasks of walking and running due to structural differences from men. The supposed "wide pelvis" of the female has been used as justification for women's exclusion from activity. The wider pelvis of the female has also been used to suggest that females are more prone to injuries in activity, especially at the knee because of a larger quadriceps angle (Q-angle). Social scientists have suggested that gender differences in walking, if indeed there are any, could possibly be explained by social and cultural factors as much as biological factors. By comparing men and women while walking and then introducing a mechanical factor which has a sociological influence and comparing them again, some answers may be found as to whether differences thought to occur between men and women while walking are actual biological differences or socially constructed differences. This study evaluated whether kinematic differences existed between men and women during walking. Male (n=9) and female (n=9) subjects were recruited for this study. Both sexes walked barefoot on a treadmill at two different speeds, slow (0.89 m/s) and fast (1.45 m/s), while being video taped from the front, rear and sagittal views. The female subjects also walked a second time in high heeled shoes (heel height = 8.0 cm) following the same protocol. Reflective markers were placed over the following anatomical landmarks: 4th lumbar vertebrae, left shoulder, greater trochanter, lateral condyle of the femur, lateral malleolus, heel and fifth metatarsal, bilaterally on the iliac crests, anterior superior iliac spines, patellae, tibial tubercles, posterior superior iliac spines and gluteal muscles. The dynamic Q-angle during the stance phase of walking was measured from the front view video. The mean area moved by each of the rear view markers was calculated from an in-house software program that analyzed the rear view video. Maximum and minimum hip, knee and ankle angles were calculated from the sagittal data. Nine anthropometric measures were measured from each subject. The static Q-angle, bi-iliocristal and bitrochanteric widths, waist, thigh and bi-trochanteric circumferences, height and weight were all noted. A two (speed)-by-two (gender) ANOVA was performed on all of the kinematic data with the significance level being set at p < 0.05. The results indicated that with an increase in walking speed there was an increase in marker movement for both the men and the women. Some structural and kinematic gender differences were found. Notably, the iliac crests of women moved more than the men's. The static and dynamic Q-angles for the women were greater than the men's. The high heels effected the ankle and hip angles but not the knee angle. The dynamic Q-angle significantly decreased when high heels were worn during walking. The above results suggest that men and women do walk differently and biomechanical factors play a small role in perceived gender differences in walking. It is important that these differences are not used to negatively impact women in terms of their perceived abilities and the access they have to physical activity.

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