Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

Dr. Rodger Kram


During daily life, people walk from one point to another. Sometimes they choose to walk along designated paths; other times they take shortcuts. To determine how humans weigh costs like time, metabolic energy expenditure, and metabolic intensity, I studied subjects making walking decisions about walking up a hill vs. along a level surface for various distances. I hypothesized that subjects would be indifferent to walking uphill at an 8.5% grade vs. on the level when the two options required the same time or the same amount of metabolic energy.

Further, I hypothesized that subjects would walk at speeds such that the level and uphill tasks had the same metabolic intensity. I found that most of the subjects (11/15) made overall pragmatic/logical choices, but some subjects (4/15) intentionally made non-pragmatic walking choices. In contrast to my hypotheses, the pragmatic subjects chose, on average, to spend 34% more time walking on the level as compared to uphill (P<0.001). They also chose to both expend 35% more metabolic energy (P<0.001) and walk at 75% greater metabolic intensities up the hill as compared to on the level (P<0.001). The walking choices made by the non-pragmatic subjects varied widely with regard to time. But like the pragmatic subjects, the non-pragmatic subjects chose to expend far more (153% more, P=0.005) metabolic energy and walked at much higher (82% higher, P<0.001) intensities during uphill walking.