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April 17, 2020

A Leg Up

We all know running is great exercise, but not everyone feels great doing it. Researchers from Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Ghent Universities and Nike are studying devices that could put more pep in that step.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

Runner's little helper.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: sound of running) Researchers are studying devices that could put more fun in your run. They experimented with systems that strap onto a runner's lower legs to reduce energy cost or, the amount of energy it takes -- to run. The team tested two types: Motor-powered, and spring-like systems. (Sound effect: cartoon spring-sprongs) While you might think springs would be the thing -- since our legs work a lot like springs when we run, (Sound effect: boi-oi-oing!) they weren't and actually made running harder.

Different story for the motorized device, which took a lot of the burden off the calf muscles. It made running fifteen percent easier than without it. (Sound effect: running on treadmill) The eleven experienced runners in treadmill tests also experienced a ten percent increase in speed. The researchers continue to tweak designs. (Sound effect: ratchet)

We're all intuitive about how we run or walk, but even leading scientists are still discovering how the human body allows us to move efficiently. This isn't some gimmick to try to get the same health benefits with less work it's about making running easier and more enjoyable and may inspire a more fit lifestyle -- even a new way to get around town. At the very least, when you jog with friends using these, you're less likely to be at the back of the pack. (Sound effect: heavy breathing)

So there ya go -- run with it.

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