Oregon study confirms health benefits of cobblestone walking for older adults

A recently completed study by scientists at the Oregon Research Institute (ORI) in Eugene confirmed earlier findings from a pilot study that walking on a cobblestone mat surface resulted in significant reductions in blood pressure and improvements in balance and physical performance among adults 60 and over. An article published in an early online publication of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society summarizes the study results in a randomized trial.

"These are very exciting results," notes John Fisher, Ph.D., one of the lead scientists on the study. "Compared to conventional walking, the experience of walking on the river rock-like surface of these manufactured cobblestone mats improved participants' balance, measures of mobility, as well as reducing their blood pressure. These issues are highly important for preventing and delaying the onset of frailty among older adults, as well as helping them maintain their current health status."

Cobblestone-like walking paths are common in China. The activity is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and relates to some of the principles of reflexology, in that the uneven surface of the cobblestones stimulate and regulate "acupoints" located on the soles of the feet. These acupoints are purportedly linked to all organs and tissues of the body. Although there is considerable anecdotal evidence indicating the health benefits of cobblestone walking, (e.g., pain relief, sleep enhancement, improved physical and mental well-being), until recently no controlled studies have been undertaken to scientifically evaluate its benefits and efficacy.

"We visited China and noticed that adults of all ages spent about 30 minutes each day walking, standing, and sometimes dancing on these beautifully laid paths of river stones in the parks and gardens of large cities. They did this for their health every day of the week. We used manufactured mats that replicated these cobblestone paths and developed a specia

Contact: Kathryn Madden
Oregon Research Institute

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