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What role does the Gait Cycle play in Pilates?

Gait analysis is the study of human locomotion. In order to analyse and quantify how someone walks, it is necessary to isolate the shortest, unique and repeatable movement during gait. This is called the gait cycle. The gait cycle describes the cyclic pattern of movement that occurs while walking. A single gait cycle starts when the heel of one foot hits the ground and ends when that same heel strikes the ground again.

Walking requires the healthy functioning of several body systems including the musculoskeletal, nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. These systems provide balance, mobility and stability as well as higher cognitive function and executive control. A loss of healthy gait function can lead to falls, injuries, loss of movement and personal freedom.

The gait cycle can be broken down into two primary phases, the stance and swing phases, which alternate for each lower limb.

  • Stance phase: Consists of the entire time a foot is on the ground.

  • Swing phase: Consists of the entire time that the foot is in the air.

The swing phase can be broken down into 4 sub-phases.

  1. Pre-swing takes place during half of the gait cycle. It is the transition phase between stance and swing, in which the foot is pushed and lifted off of the ground.

  2. During the initial swing, the hip, knee, and ankle are flexed to begin the advancement of the leg forward and to lift the foot over the ground.

  3. During mid-swing, limb advancement continues and the thigh reaches its highest point.