In today’s modern age, we’re missing out on something – irregularity. In particular, challenging ourselves to walk on irregular surfaces.
Researchers in Oregon set up two groups of older adults: one group who walked on a level surface, and a second group that practiced walking over an uneven cobblestone-like course. Each group walked three times a week for 16 weeks.
It isn’t surprising that the cobblestone-walking group had significantly improved balance. But what surprised me is that the cobblestone group achieved faster walking speeds than the control group when tested on level surfaces. And their blood pressure went down too.
Walking on an irregular surface forces the stabilizing muscles of the ankles, legs and spine to adapt on a moment to moment basis to changing terrain. And your brain has to get into the act too to coordinate your response.
It’s true that it may not be easy to find cobblestones to walk on – not everyone lives in a medieval town. But you have other opportunities to practice walking on an uneven surface: take a hike in the woods, where there will be boulders, rocks, or tree roots.
You have to continue to challenge yourself in novel ways to gain fitness and mental sharpness.