Heart Beat: Bumping along to better health

Heart Beat

Bumping along to better health

Treadmill and track, move over — a bumpy road may yield a smoother path to better balance, lower blood pressure, and good health.

In China, people walk barefoot on formal paths paved with river stones. A team from the Oregon Research Institute wanted to measure the benefits, if any, of this exercise. First they devised rubber mats that simulated the smooth stone paths. Then they randomly assigned 108 healthy but physically inactive older volunteers to walk on the mats three times a week for 30 minutes, or to walk outdoors for the same amount of time.

As might be expected, walking on the uneven cobblestone mat improved balance and performance on physical tests more than conventional walking did. The surprising finding was that it lowered blood pressure further than regular walking did. The results appeared in the August 2005 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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