|MadSci Network: Anatomy|
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, let’s 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. It’s much harder to life the long one, isn’t 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.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Anatomy.