When we walk we flex our arms and fingers to make our body more responsive to a moving surface. When we run, we raise our feet to maintain balance and to keep our body in place. But the movement of our arm, the way it bends as it is flexed, is one of the easiest movements we make, even though it is one of the hardest to control. Why does it happen? It simply takes a long time to get to that point. As we walk, the muscles in our arms move faster because the muscles needed to do this work are in short supply compared to the muscles needed to flex our foot. While walking, our joints move the joints, which are our hands and feet, so they move faster. When the movement of our arm is very stiff from fatigue, we move the arms more rapidly, causing our arm to bend further.
What about the motion of our other legs? When we are standing, our four limbs move at an average speed of about 90 to 110 km/h. This means the total speed of all four legs is the same as when we are walking. However, when the legs are walking together at some angle, these two legs move faster. This gives us a ratio of legs to wheels that is about 6:1, similar to a car’s ratio of gears to wheels. In fact, with 6 gears we are able to go from 1 to 16 mph faster than when we travel at 2 to 8.
As we climb higher up the mountains the ratio of wheels to legs gets more and more in favor of our legs. The ratio of wheels to legs that makes up our total speed increases, so we can have faster and faster speeds going. The faster we move the higher and higher the elevation we go to. This happens because when we have the speed advantage, we can keep going, and when we slow down, you are not always able to keep up with us. In the Alps, from 10,000 meters to 14,000 meters the ratio of wheels to legs is much more in favor of our legs and our speed.
All this is an interesting phenomenon, but it doesn’t answer the question of why these motions occur. This may actually depend on the person. When people are young, their arms and their legs don’t move very rapidly. There are also some aspects of their body that aren’t yet developed, such as a lack of joint strength, so there may be parts of their bodies that get affected by the process. These are all situations where the physical
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