Metabolic cost adaptations during training with a soft exosuit assisting the hip joint.

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Center for Innovation and Engineering, Civil and Mechanical Engineering

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Scientific Reports

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Different adaptation rates have been reported in studies involving ankle exoskeletons designed to reduce the metabolic cost of their wearers. This work aimed to investigate energetic adaptations occurring over multiple training sessions, while walking with a soft exosuit assisting the hip joint. The participants attended five training sessions within 20 days. They walked carrying a load of 20.4 kg for 20 minutes with the exosuit powered and five minutes with the exosuit unpowered. Percentage change in net metabolic cost between the powered and unpowered conditions improved across sessions from -6.2 ± 3.9% (session one) to -10.3 ± 4.7% (session five), indicating a significant effect associated with training. The percentage change at session three (-10.5 ± 4.5%) was similar to the percentage change at session five, indicating that two 20-minute sessions may be sufficient for users to fully adapt and maximize the metabolic benefit provided by the exoskeleton. Retention was also tested measuring the metabolic reduction five months after the last training session. The percent change in metabolic cost during this session (-10.1 ± 3.2%) was similar to the last training session, indicating that the adaptations resulting in reduced metabolic cost are preserved. These outcomes are relevant when evaluating exoskeletons' performance on naïve users, with a specific focus on hip extension assistance.

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