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Comparison of stair walking mechanics between adult males and females



Stair negotiation is a daily functional activity that poses greater mechanical burden as compared with level walking. Few studies have investigated the biomechanical demands of stair walking tasks. However, sex-based biomechanical differences of such tasks, in terms of joint movement and muscle activity, have not been previously reported.


The aim of this study was to investigate sex-based differences in lower extremity joint kinematics and muscular electromyography (EMG) in healthy adults during stair ascent and descent.

Materials and methods

A total of 20 participants (10 males and 10 females), with mean±SD age of 21.7±2.7 years, ascended and descended a two-sided staircase. Sagittal movements of the hip, knee, and ankle joints were measured using a Qualisys motion analysis system. Peak amplitude of surface EMG activity for gluteus medius, rectus femoris (RF), vastus lateralis, and soleus muscles was collected using a Biopack EMG system. Each participant performed three repetitions, and an average was calculated for analysis.


Female participants demonstrated significantly higher hip and knee angles (P=0.01) during stair ascent and higher hip angles and ankle dorsiflexion (P=0.01) during stair descent than male participants. Female participants also exerted higher normalized muscular activity than male participants for RF, vastus lateralis, and soleus muscles during ascent. However, only RF muscle had significantly higher readings for female participants during stair descent.


Female participants perform stair negotiation using greater angular excursion and muscle activation than male participants. This could impose greater mechanical burden on lower extremity structures and, consequently, increase energy consumption. Therefore, sex-based differences should be considered when planning a stair-negotiation rehabilitation program.


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Correspondence to Ahmed Farrag PhD.

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Farrag, A. Comparison of stair walking mechanics between adult males and females. Bull Fac Phys Ther 21, 88–93 (2016).

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  • electromyography
  • kinematics
  • lower extremity
  • sex
  • stair negotiation