Arm movements can increase leg muscle activity during submaximal recumbent stepping in neurologically intact individuals
de Kam, Digna × Rijken, Hennie Manintveld, Toos Nienhuis, Bart Dietz, Volker Duysens, Jaak #
American Physiological Society
Journal of Applied Physiology vol:115 issue:1 pages:34-42
Facilitation of leg muscle activity by active arm movements during locomotor tasks could be beneficial during gait rehabilitation after spinal cord injury. The present study explored the effects of arm movements on leg muscle activity during submaximal recumbent stepping. Healthy subjects exercised on a recumbent stepping machine both with and without arm movements. Activity of five leg muscles was recorded and compared for stepping with and without arm movements. To determine which arm movements are optimal for leg muscle facilitation, subjects were instructed to step with 1) mechanically coupled vs. decoupled arm and leg movements, 2) synchronous vs. asynchronous arm movements, and 3) at 50 vs. 70 RPM. Leg muscle activity was increased by active arm movements in all muscles, except the vastus lateralis muscle. Activity of other extensors (soleus, medial gastrocnemius, and biceps femoris) was primarily increased during the extension phase, whereas activity of flexors (tibialis anterior) was also increased during the flexion phase. Facilitation was more or less consistent for both frequencies and for synchronous and asynchronous movements. For coupled arm movements, facilitation tended to be diminished or absent. The observed facilitation in the present study is probably of neuromuscular rather than biomechanical origin, since the arms are probably hardly involved in postural control or weight-bearing during recumbent stepping. Further studies in patients should explore the possibility to integrate neuromuscular facilitation in rehabilitation programs.