Load carrying with flexible bamboo poles: Optimization of a coupled oscillator system
Journal of Experimental Biology
Company of Biologists
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Edith Cowan University, Collaboration Enhancement Scheme.
Further funding information available at: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.203760
In Asia, flexible bamboo poles are routinely used to carry substantial loads on the shoulder. Various advantages have been attributed to this load-carrying strategy (e.g. reduced energy consumption), but experimental evidence remains inconsistent – possibly because carriers in previous studies were inexperienced. Theoretical models typically neglect the individual’s capacity to optimize interactions with the oscillating load, leaving the complete dynamics underexplored. This study used a trajectory optimization model to predict gait adaptations that minimize work-based costs associated with carrying compliant loads and compared the outcomes with naturally selected gait adaptations of experienced pole carriers. Gait parameters and load interactions (e.g. relative amplitude and frequency, phase) were measured in rural farmworkers in Vietnam. Participants carried a range of loads with compliant and rigid poles and the energetic consequences of step frequency adjustments were evaluated using the model. When carrying large loads, the empirical step frequency changes associated with pole type (compliant versus rigid) were largely consistent with model predictions, in terms of direction (increase or decrease) and magnitude (by how much). Work-minimizing strategies explain changes in leg compliance, harmonic frequency oscillations and fluctuations in energetic cost associated with carrying loads on a compliant bamboo pole.