Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Workshop 4

2. Walking as an Energy Cycle

running

Walking uses an energy cycle that is like a pendulum's motion. Unlike running, which relies on storing elastic potential energy, walking involves gravitational potential energy. When we step forward, our body falls slightly, converting some of our gravitational potential energy into motion as kinetic energy. As our weight shifts to a position over the foot we've just put down, the body moves upward slightly, converting the kinetic energy back into gravitational potential energy. Our motion in walking is like a pendulum's motion, but a person behaves like an upside-down pendulum, with each foot acting as a pivot point and the body as the pendulum weight. Just as a longer pendulum will take longer to complete one cycle of motion, so the time for a complete cycle of walking will be greater for a person with longer legs.

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