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Author Topic: Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?  (Read 12406 times)

Ian Visagie

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Ian Visagie  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Chris

We have had a few discussions about the following topic and i thought you might be able to help.

When running uphill, who would find it easier, a short person or a tall person. Obviously given that some variables like fitness and weight being equal. I suppose there are more to it than just centre of gravity.

Thanks for your time

Ian Visagie

What do you think?


 

Offline JnA

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #1 on: 07/05/2009 08:58:20 »
I suspect that the length of stride would be a considerable factor.
 

Offline Don_1

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #2 on: 07/05/2009 09:10:05 »
With fitness, weight and stamina being equal, I should think that the taller person would find it easier, since, as JnA suggests, the longer stride would mean fewer paces to reach the top.

Since I am not fit, overweight and stamina is, to me, the rate at which I stammer when trying to utter a sentence of more than a dozen words, I shall not be volunteering to take part in any practical research into finding the absolute truth of the matter.
 

Offline dentstudent

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #3 on: 07/05/2009 09:19:04 »
If their weights are exactly the same and ceteris paribus, there is the same energy required to move that mass against gravity up the hill. I should think therefore, that there is negligible difference between the two.
 

Offline Karsten

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #4 on: 07/05/2009 21:42:27 »
I have a friend who used to be a competitive cross-country runner in High School. Her team was good enough to win the State Championships at least once. She is 5'10" (178cm) tall and reported one day that she was always passed by the shorter runners on the uphills while on the downhills she would pass the short runners easily thanks to her longer stride. Shorter legs may result in better "gearing" for going uphill, while longer legs are geared better to go downhill. Physically it may be the same work, but bio-mechanically speaking I can imagine that shorter legs give you an advantage if a shorter stride is more efficient when going uphill. It may be better for a human to exert a smaller force more often (=shorter stride) than a larger force less frequently (=longer stride). Shorter legs also may be lighter and that may help with a shorter stride.
 

Ethos

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #5 on: 07/05/2009 22:17:45 »

 Shorter legs may result in better "gearing" for going uphill, while longer legs are geared better to go downhill.

I agree, it's all about the leverage and shorter legs would have the advantage climbing a hill...................Ethos
 

Offline DrN

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #6 on: 07/05/2009 22:49:43 »
I agree. I went for a run last night in a particularly hilly area of London, and as always, found that I'm forced to take much shorter strides when going uphill. Longer strides require you to raise your leg much higher in front of you, and almost have the effect of pushing you backwards (or that's what it feels like) unless you also bend your knees quite considerably too.
 

lyner

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #7 on: 07/05/2009 23:41:28 »
I think that the simple concept of gear ratios doesn't deal adequately with the problem. If both tall and short athletes are built to the same scale (ratios of distances of muscle attachment to length of limb and length of muscle) then the actual energy / work (force times distance) will be the same. The mechanical advantage / leverage would be the same. The only difference would be that the short athlete would have a bigger muscle CSA than the tall one and the shorter runner would be taking more strides. That could make a difference to the energy supply to the muscles. There may be several differenced between their two physiologies which could account for the differences in performance but they are probably very subtle - possibly to do with muscle temperature, circulation and cooling.
 

Offline JnA

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #8 on: 08/05/2009 01:51:24 »
If the taller runner took shorter strides they would have the advantage. Since all else is equal the shorter runner would probably be 'bulkier' to match muscle strength.
 

lyner

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #9 on: 08/05/2009 10:21:29 »
If the taller runner took shorter strides they would have the advantage. 

Why? Bringing your legs back at the end of a stride is a waste of energy. That could, in fact, represent an absloute advantage for long legged runners, I suppose as they need fewer strides per km.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #10 on: 08/05/2009 11:05:23 »
How about comparing it to running up a flight of stairs, the short person takes one step at a time and the tall person does two at a time, who finds it easier?
 

Offline JP

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #11 on: 08/05/2009 17:03:54 »
I am a runner, and I've always been told that the best way to handle hills is to shorten my stride and look up so that I keep proper form and don't bend over.  If shortening one's stride is that important, then you would expect that a tall runner would at least not have a great advantage from long legs.  The second thing I thought of is that running up hills is generally considered a speed or strength workout, which usually taxes your anaerobic capacity as well as your aerobic capacity.  In that case, you could probably make the case that a good build for running uphill is similar to that of a sprinter.  If you then look at Olympic sprinters, they tend to not be overly tall. 

Finally, as sophiecentaur mentioned, there's a lot of physiological effects that could give one or the other the slight edge.  One that hasn't been mentioned is that muscle strength depends on cross-sectional area, whereas weight of limbs depends on total volume.  If the hill is a strength workout, this might give the edge to the shorter runner, albeit a small one.  But in a race when both runners are pushing as hard as they can, a small edge can make a difference.
 

Offline JnA

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #12 on: 09/05/2009 02:49:44 »
If the taller runner took shorter strides they would have the advantage. 

Why? Bringing your legs back at the end of a stride is a waste of energy. That could, in fact, represent an absloute advantage for long legged runners, I suppose as they need fewer strides per km.

when you are running uphill you aren't 'bringing your legs back' at all. you are using the muscle to 'step up' as it were.
 

Offline JnA

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #13 on: 09/05/2009 02:55:55 »
If you then look at Olympic sprinters, they tend to not be overly tall. 




The current 100 and 200m world record holder is 1.96m (6ft5in) tall.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #14 on: 09/05/2009 03:08:58 »
He said he had nuggets for breakfast, is that a codename for steriods? :)
Mind you, they probably all juice themselves up so the advantage is cancelled.
 

lyner

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #15 on: 10/05/2009 01:16:51 »

when you are running uphill you aren't 'bringing your legs back' at all. you are using the muscle to 'step up' as it were.

You have to bring you leg back to the start of the next stride or you fall over! The action of reciprocating involves energy loss.
 

Offline erickejah

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #16 on: 11/05/2009 02:42:04 »
He said he had nuggets for breakfast, is that a codename for steriods? :)
Mind you, they probably all juice themselves up so the advantage is cancelled.
LOL
 

Offline Emilio Romero

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #17 on: 13/05/2009 17:41:34 »
two words... cadence and body incline (ok, not two words)
;-)
 

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Who finds it easier to run uphill - tall or short people?
« Reply #17 on: 13/05/2009 17:41:34 »

 

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