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Moving the Arms to Activate the Legs

Ferris, Daniel P.1,2,3; Huang, Helen J.2; Kao, Pei-Chun1

Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: July 2006 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 113-120

Recent studies on neurologically intact individuals and individuals with spinal cord injury indicate that rhythmic upper limb muscle activation has an excitatory effect on lower limb muscle activation during locomotor-like tasks. This finding suggests that gait rehabilitation therapy after neurological injury should incorporate simultaneous upper limb and lower limb rhythmic exercise to take advantage of neural coupling.

Upper-limb exertion provides an excitatory effect on lower-limb muscle recruitment during rhythmic movement of the arms and legs.

Departments of 1Movement Science, 2Biomedical Engineering, and 3Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Address for correspondence: Daniel P. Ferris, Division of Kinesiology, 401 Washtenaw Ave, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2214 (E-mail:

Accepted for publication: March 23, 2006.

Associate Editor: E. Paul Zehr, Ph.D.

©2006 The American College of Sports Medicine