The Metabolic Cost of Walking in healthy young and older adults: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis

Sauvik Das Gupta, Maarten F. Bobbert, Dinant A. Kistemaker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The Metabolic Cost of Walking (MCoW) is an important variable of daily life that has been studied extensively. Several studies suggest that MCoW is higher in Older Adults (OA) than in Young Adults (YA). However, it is difficult to compare values across studies due to differences in the way MCoW was expressed, the units in which it was reported and the walking speed at which it was measured. To provide an overview of MCoW in OA and YA and to investigate the quantitative effect of age on MCoW, we have conducted a literature review and performed two meta-analyses. We extracted data on MCoW in healthy YA (18–41 years old) and healthy OA (≥59 years old) and calculated, if not already reported, the Gross (GCoW) and Net MCoW (NCoW) in J/kg/m. If studies reported MCoW measured at multiple speeds, we selected those values for YA and OA at which MCoW was minimal. All studies directly comparing YA and OA were selected for meta-analyses. From all studies reviewed, the average GCoW in YA was 3.4 ± 0.4 J/kg/m and 3.8 ± 0.4 J/kg/m in OA (~12% more in OA), and the average NCoW in YA was 2.4 ± 0.4 J/kg/m and 2.8 ± 0.5 J/kg/m in OA (~17% more in OA). Our meta-analyses indicated a statistically significant elevation of both GCoW and NCoW (p < 0.001) for OA. In terms of GCoW, OA expended about 0.3 J/kg/m more metabolic energy than YA and about 0.4 J/kg/m more metabolic energy than YA in terms of NCoW. Our study showed a statistically significant elevation in MCoW of OA over YA. However, from the literature it is unclear if this elevation is directly caused by age or due to an interaction between age and methodology. We recommend further research comparing MCoW in healthy OA and YA during “natural” over-ground walking and treadmill walking, after sufficient familiarization time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9956
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date10 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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