MadSci Network: Anatomy
Query:

Re: do tall people run faster then short people?

Date: Mon Apr 21 11:58:33 2003
Posted By: Thomas M. Greiner, Associate Professor of Anatomy / Physical Anthropology
Area of science: Anatomy
ID: 1049810057.An
Message:

Do tall people run faster than short people?

Yes, and no. Actually, it depends.

First, it depends upon the muscles that cause the legs to work. There are 
basically two muscle speeds  fast and slow. People with mostly fast 
muscles will be able to move more quickly, but will become tired sooner 
than people with mostly slow muscles. But, of course, that has nothing to 
do with how tall you are. So, lets assume that a tall person and a short 
person have exactly the same type of muscle.

The muscles that work the legs are fairly close to the joints  and so the 
will work the same whether you are tall or short. That means that all 
people will use their muscles to create one step in the same way, 
regardless of how tall they are, and the amount of time needed to make a 
step would be the same. So, tall people can use their muscles to make one 
step, while shorter people would have to make more than one step to cover 
the same distance. Based on that, if the muscles are strong enough to move 
the legs, then the tall person will be able to go faster since that person 
will travel a greater distance with each step.

However, I did write if the muscles are strong enough. Try to lift a 
long pole by holding onto just one end. No try to lift a short pole. Its 
much harder to life the long one, isnt it? The same thing is going on 
with the tall and short person. The tall person has to work harder to move 
their longer limbs. Because they have to work harder, they may not be able 
to move their legs very fast. That would mean that the shorter person may 
actually be able to run faster than the tall person.

So, the answer really does depend. It depends upon how long the legs are 
and how strong the muscles are. Long legs give a greater distance with 
each step (which is potentially faster), but require more strength for 
each step (which is potentially slower). Short legs require more steps to 
cover the same distance (which is potentially slower), but require less 
strength for each step (which is potentially faster). So, predicting the 
running speed of a person is a complex equation based upon muscle strength 
and limb length. 



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