The how and why of arm swing during human walking

Pieter Meyns, Sjoerd M. Bruijn, Jacques Duysens*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


    Humans walk bipedally, and thus, it is unclear why they swing their arms. In this paper, we will review the mechanisms and functions of arm swinging in human gait. First, we discuss the potential advantages of having swinging arms. Second, we go into the detail on the debate whether arm swing is arising actively or passively, where we will conclude that while a large part of arm swinging is mechanically passive, there is an active contribution of muscles (i.e. an activity that is not merely caused by stretch reflexes). Third, we describe the possible function of the active muscular contribution to arm swinging in normal gait, and discuss the possibility that a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) generates this activity. Fourth, we discuss examples from pathological cases, in which arm swinging is affected. Moreover, using the ideas presented, we suggest ways in which arm swing may be used as a therapeutic aid.We conclude that (1) arm swing should be seen as an integral part of human bipedal gait, arising mostly from passive movements, which are stabilized by active muscle control, which mostly originates from locomotor circuits in the central nervous system (2) arm swinging during normal bipedal gait most likely serves to reduce energy expenditure and (3) arm swinging may be of therapeutic value.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)555-562
    Number of pages8
    JournalGait and Posture
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


    • Arm swing
    • Arms
    • Gait
    • Human
    • Interlimb coordination


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