Incidental walking activity is sufficient to induce time-dependent conditioning of the Achilles tendon

Grigg, N.L. and Stevenson, N.J. and Wearing, S.C. and Smeathers, J.E. (2009) Incidental walking activity is sufficient to induce time-dependent conditioning of the Achilles tendon. Gait and Posture, 31 (1). pp. 64-67.

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The Achilles tendon has been seen to exhibit time-dependent conditioning when isometric muscle actions were of a prolonged duration, compared to those involved in dynamic activities, such as walking. Since, the effect of short duration muscle activation associated with dynamic activities is yet to be established, the present study aimed to investigate the effect of incidental walking activity on Achilles tendon diametral strain. Eleven healthy male participants refrained from physical activity in excess of the walking required to carry out necessary daily tasks and wore an activity monitor during the 24 h study period. Achilles tendon diametral strain, 2 cm proximal to the calcaneal insertion, was determined from sagittal sonograms. Baseline sonographic examinations were conducted at approximately 08:00 h followed by replicate examinations at 12 and 24 h. Walking activity was measured as either present (1) or absent (0) and a linear weighting function was applied to account for the proximity of walking activity to tendon examination time. Over the course of the day the median (min, max) Achilles tendon diametral strain was -11.4 (4.5, -25.4)%. A statistically significant relationship was evident between walking activity and diametral strain (P<0.01) and this relationship improved when walking activity was temporally weighted (AIC 131 to 126). The results demonstrate that the short yet repetitive loads generated during activities of daily living, such as walking, are sufficient to induce appreciable time-dependant conditioning of the Achilles tendon. Implications arise for the in vivo measurement of Achilles tendon properties and the rehabilitation of tendinopathy.