Effects of backpack loads and positions on the variability of gait spatiotemporal parameters in young adults

Abstract Introduction: People carry backpacks of different weight in different positions every day. The effects of backpack wearing under different loads and positions were assessed according to the gait’s spatiotemporal parameters and their variability in young adults. Methods Twenty-one subjects performed trials of 4 min in the conditions: control condition with no backpack; bilateral back load consisting of 10% body weight (BW); bilateral back load of 20% BW (B20); unilateral load of 10% BW; unilateral load with 20% BW (U20); bilateral frontal load with 10% BW; bilateral frontal load with 20% BW. Results Step length (SL) and step frequency (SF) show that frontal conditions differed from others as seen in B20. Gait cycle phases showed an increase in the B20 condition for double stance phase and stance phase, swing phase presented reduction in the B20 condition. There were significant main effects in position for SL, SF, and walk ratio, in load only for stride width. The highest variability of spatiotemporal parameters occurred in the U20 condition. All load conditions with 20% BW showed a greater variability when compared to the 10% BW counterpart. Conclusion We concluded that young adults can cope with up to a 15% BW load under a bilateral back position, but in the frontal position not even a 10% BW load was proven to be a safe limit. 20% BW loads should be avoided in any position. These recommendations may assure increased gait stability, decreased trunk forward lean and decreased muscle activation and fatigue reducing back pain occurrence.