Walking is good for you, we all know that, but did you know what you walk on can make a difference in your health as well? Walking on uneven surfaces has been shown to do a lot more for you than walking on concrete. There are a lot of reasons for that, one of which is our feet are as sensitive as our hands, shoes and man made surfaces rob our brain of a whole lot of input which has an affect on a lot of different things in our body.
We go to China, as it seems we tend to do a lot these days, for a study carried out by the Oregon Research Institute. "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 special protocol so that participants gradually got used to walking on the uneven surface of the mats," reported Fisher. Participants in the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging (Grant AG20470), were divided into an experimental group -- the cobblestone mat walkers -- and a control group which took part in conventional walking activities for one hour, three times per week for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, mat walkers were found to have better scores on measures of balance, physical function, and blood pressure than those in the conventional walking group."
So, yet again, something that humans have done for millenia, is actually healthier than things that humans have created in the last hundred years or so. Funny how that works. Treadmills are great, I use one when the weather is hellish in Arizona, they get you moving, but you get a lot more out of running or walking on natural surfaces. Now I am not saying go run around barefoot if you aren't used to it, but get minimalist shoes, they sell those now, and go walk on grass, rocks. up and down hills. You will get a lot more out of it.
Take walking in beach sand for example, it burns more calories, gets you to work on strength and balance and reduces stress. Don't live by a beach? Find a sand volleyball court, a lot of parks where I live have them. Walk or run back and forth in the sand. Don't want to do it barefoot? Where minimalist shoes.
Most of us ran around barefoot as kids, you can still do that and it's darn good for you too. If you are into working out, as we all should be, train barefoot or in minimalist shoes, there's a whole slew of reasons why it's better for your body. Here's a very comprehensive article on that topic.
Our bodies work best when we aren't screwing with what they were designed to do, I have found that over and over again working on people. Doing things barefoot or in minimalist shoes is good for your brain, your body and your soul. Take a walk in a park, on grass, instead of in a gym. You'll get a lot more out of it. Take it from me.
Kat is a LMT in AZ with close to a half decade of experience. She likes to talk to ppl about their health, make them feel better and get them to realize they have so much power to control their own health. Snarky yet informative, that's Kat in a nutshell. She's also available for personalized, targeted therapeutic massages, please see the scheduling page if you live in the Phoenix AZ area.