Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology and Health Science

Committee Chair(s)

Talin Louder


Talin Louder


Brennan J. Thompson


Jon Carey


Although prior literature has established the preliminary clinical benefits of aquatic exercise across various clinical populations, there is a need to explore the potential for including aquatic-based movement as a key component of a multi-modal approach toward improving mobility and reducing fall risk. Eccentric exercise may complement aquatic exercise given that movements performed in water immersion tend to be low impact. Eccentric exercise may also improve the passive stiffness of lower extremity extensors, which gives an additional rationale for the potential of eccentric exercise to reduce fall risk when combined with aquatic exercise. There may also be an acute response to spinal reflex activity post-eccentric exercise, which could enhance the benefit of performing aquatic exercise if eccentric exercise is performed immediately prior. The purpose of this study was to compare lower-limb muscle activation during gait performed in water versus on land, before and after a short bout of eccentric exercise, in order to investigate the potential of a multi-modal approach toward improving gait abnormalities that relate to fall risk in older adults. Twenty-six healthy, recreationally active young adults completed the study. Each participant walked on land and in water, both prior to and after eccentric exercise for 2-min each while root-mean-square (RMS) muscle activity of the tibialis anterior (TA), medial gastrocnemius (GM), biceps femoris (BF), and vastus lateralis (VL) were recorded during the swing and stance phases of gait, using surface electromyography. A two-way within-subjects analysis of variance was used to evaluate for main effects and interactions. Main effects of environment were observed across all measures of muscle activation (F = 4.5 – 602.6, p <0.001 – 0.036) except for BF RMS during the swing phase (F = 0.2, p = 0.699). Co-activation of the thigh during swing was the only measure to reveal an environment × eccentric exercise interaction (F = 5.4, p < 0.001) and main effect of eccentric exercise (F = 7.4, 2 p = 0.008).The significant interaction on Co-activation of the thigh during swing appeared to be influenced by a non-significant reduction in VL RMS observed for post-eccentric exercise land walking. This suggests that participants may have adopted a different motor strategy, possibly anticipating the greater vertical ground reaction forces during foot impact in land walking compared to water walking, leading to reduced VL activation during swing. The results of this study provide evidence that additional research is warranted and may be aimed at exploring the potential of a multi-modal training approach involving aquatic treadmill walking and eccentric exercise to enhance mobility and address fall risk in clinical populations.