21 August, 2011
Science Project: Do Taller People Run Faster?
Factors in Running
A person's height does have an effect on how fast they can run. A study published in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine" in 2006, however, notes that height is only a small factor in running speed. Other more important factors include body conditions such as weight, physical strength and how muscular they are. Running speed also depends on the type of running; short distances require bursts of energy and long strides, while long distances or marathon running require more endurance and physical strength. The running environment -- including wind speeds, temperature and type of surface -- makes a difference in speed as well.
Stride and Running Speed
Running speed is the product of stride length times stride frequency. Stride length is the distance a runner can place one foot in front of the other; hence a tall person will typically have a longer stride length. Stride frequency is the number of stride per unit of time, or how fast the runner can move his legs, and is deemed to be the more important factor in running speeds. Author Steve Magness explains in his book "The Science of Running" that while taller individuals have long strides, they cannot run as fast as people of average height because they typically have less muscular strength to stride fast enough for higher speeds.
Energy and Running Speeds
Energy is another important factor in running speeds. A review published in the "Journal of Experimental Biology" in 2008 found that how much energy a runner has and how effectively she uses the energy affect running speed and endurance. As taller individuals are generally heavier in weight, they require more energy and hence more oxygen to have the same running speeds and durations as shorter and lighter individuals. If a tall runner has bulkier upper body muscles, they must carry even more weight.
Running Speed Science Project
A science project to compare the running speeds of tall and average-height individuals can be based on the study from the "International Journal of Sports Medicine." The study found that faster running speeds had less ground contact time than slower speeds. This means that the stride frequency of fast runners was higher. Create a similar science project to compare running speeds of tall and average-height athletes. Have the athletes run short distances and long distance to compare both sprinting speeds and long-distance running. Repeat the science experiment with several sets of tall and average-height runners.
Science Project Comparisons
A science project can also include a chart that shows all the variables that must be taken into account when determining running speed. These factors include stride length, stride frequency, weight of runner and energy consumption. Show sample calculations based on data collected from various real-life tall and average-height runners and athletes. In most cases, the project will show that individuals of average height, who have stronger leg muscles and are leaner in physique, have higher running speeds than taller individuals.
- Newton Ask a Scientist: Height and Running
- International Journal of Sports Medicine: Factors Related to Top Running Speed and Economy
- The Science of Running: Understanding Stride Rate and Stride Length
- University of Washington: Tips on Maximizing Your Running Economy
- Journal of Experimental Biology: Limits to Running Speed in Dogs, Horses and Humans
- Jupiterimages/Digital Vision/Getty Images