Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology and Health Science

Committee Chair(s)

Talin Louder


Talin Louder


Chris Dakin


Sara Harper


The purpose of this study was to compare lower-limb muscle activation during gait, performed in water versus on land, in order to provide preliminary evidence for the benefit of aquatic treadmill walking in treating individuals with foot drop. Foot drop is a debilitating symptom of several neurological disorders characterized by the inability to dorsiflex the foot while walking. Generally, it is due to weakness in the ankle dorsiflexor muscles and/or increased tone in the plantar flexor muscles. Previous research has found that exercise interventions that demand greater than normal activation of the tibialis anterior (TA) (i.e., the primary ankle dorsiflexor) may improve walking performance in individuals with foot drop. Correspondingly, higher drag forces associated with walking in water may also facilitate increased activation of the TA during the swing phase of gait, potentially leading to similar improvements in gait. Thus, the current study compared surface electromyographic activity in the TA and medial gastrocnemius (GM) during gait performed in water versus on land. Thirty-eight healthy, recreationally active adults completed the study. Each participant walked under five conditions (Land 2.5 mph, Land 3.5 mph, Water 2.5 mph, Water 3.5 mph, and Water 3.5 mph + Jets) for 2-min each while muscle activity in the TA and GM were recorded using surface electromyography. A two-way within-subjects analysis of variance was used to evaluate main effects and interactions. As a secondary analysis, paired samples t-tests were used to assess differences between walking in water with and without jet resistance. TA activity during the swing phase of gait was greater in water than on land and this effect increased with greater walking velocity and the application of jet resistance. Furthermore, GM activity during the stance phase of gait was lower in water compared to land. The results of this study provide evidence in support of aquatic treadmill walking as a potential treatment for individuals with foot drop. Additional research is needed to establish if a causal relationship exists between increased TA activity during exercise and improvements in voluntary dorsiflexion during gait in individuals with foot drop.

Included in

Biomechanics Commons