Technology

Breaking Barriers in Mobility: A Novel Exoskeleton for Overweight Persons

A Novel Knee Exoskeleton for Overweight Person Featured Image

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been increasing globally, posing significant health challenges such as joint pain, reduced mobility, and an increased risk of chronic diseases. These challenges often make it difficult for overweight individuals to engage in physical activities or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Mobility impairments can also affect their quality of life and limit their ability to perform daily tasks independently.

Exoskeleton technology offers a promising solution to enhance mobility and physical activity for individuals with mobility impairments, including overweight individuals. Simple brisk walking for overweight people is difficult as a lot of load is placed on the knee joint, giving rise to the high possibility of permanent knee joint damage and a high chance of knee joint operation.

Prototype exoskeleton for overweight individualsPassive exoskeletons are designed to provide mechanical support without needing an external power source, making them more accessible and easier to use for a wider range of individuals. Unlike active exoskeletons, which require complex control systems and power sources, passive exoskeletons are typically simpler in design and operation. This simplicity can make them more suitable for everyday use by overweight individuals, offering continuous support during various activities without the need for frequent recharging or maintenance.

A passive exoskeleton is the preferred option, as there is the possibility of developing a much lighter exoskeleton. It is very important to ensure the attached exoskeleton doesn’t increase the load on the overweight person, and a passive exoskeleton can be attached with lightweight and robust springs that can compress and extend following the gait pattern and knee flexion and extension. With the help of a compression spring, the exoskeleton could provide mechanical support to shift the load on knee joints and muscles to the spring motion of compression and extension while in gait motion, making physical activities more leisurely and less strenuous for overweight individuals. By redistributing the weight and providing assistance during movement, exoskeletons can help overcome mobility limitations and encourage increased physical activity to help the overweight person reduce their weight.

I developed a novel exoskeleton for my master’s thesis titled A Novel Knee Exoskeleton for Overweight Persons’s tested the prototype on three individuals who were overweight and used biosensors attached to the gastrocnemius muscle, which allowed us to indirectly detect change in muscle excitation and based on the output from the gastrocnemius muscle, we can predict if the stress on the knee joint has been reduced. The stress or load on the knee joint is reduced if the muscle activity is reduced.

Overall, as I have developed a novel exoskeleton for overweight individuals in a master’s thesis project, with the hope that it could address a significant societal problem by exploring innovative solutions to improve mobility and physical activity in this population.


For a more technical look, read “A novel knee exoskeleton for overweight person,” written for the 2015 10th Asian Control Conference (ASCC): IEEExplore.org


This article was written and completed with the insights and contributions of Azizullah Saleem, a current Ph.D. student in mechatronic engineering at Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey. Aziz has experience in the design, testing, use, and implementation of wearable sensor and exoskeleton technology, and his master project involved developing an assistive knee device for an overweight person.

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