Biomechanics and movement science doctoral student Fany Alvarado equips a study participant with wearable sensors on her foot, calf and thigh so researchers can study her everyday walking patterns outside a laboratory setting.
Biomechanics and movement science doctoral student Fany Alvarado is outfitting study participant Jennifer Kraut with wearable sensors on her feet and legs so she and Jocelyn Hafer, an assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology, can study how Kraut walks in everyday life. By better understanding walking patterns in non-clinical settings, Hafer is hoping to eventually be able to predict, prevent and treat knee osteoarthritis.

Learning outside the lab

May 01, 2023 Written by Amy Cherry | Photo by Ashley Barnas

Wearable tech helps UD biomechanics researchers get first glimpse at everyday walking patterns

When you walk in a clinical setting, you’re often walking in a straight line and faster than you normally would. It’s because you’re being watched. 

“Historically, we’ve gleaned a lot of information from bringing people into the lab and conducting precise measurements, but that information isn’t indicative of their behavior in the real world,” said Jocelyn Hafer

The assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology in the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences is one of the few biomechanists looking to get beyond the well-documented “white coat effect” and gauge gait in people’s everyday lives without a researcher watching over their every move, influencing their behavior.

Using innovative wearable technology and funded through a $434,761 R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Hafer will gain a wealth of data about people’s walking patterns and joint ranges of motion. 

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