- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The path to better health and lower blood pressure may be paved with cobblestones.

When people older than 60 walked on smooth, rounded cobblestones for a half-hour a day for four months, they significantly lowered their blood pressure and improved their balance, a study showed.

Behavioral scientists from the Oregon Research Institute investigated the health effects of cobblestones after observing people exercising and walking back and forth over traditional stone paths in China.

“We noticed in several cities we visited that people were walking on cobblestone paths, and people were standing on them, and sometimes dancing on them, doing weight-shifting,” said John Fisher, who led the study at the institute in Eugene, Ore.

The results surprised Mr. Fisher and his fellow researchers, who expected to see some general improvement in health but also saw blood pressure drop measurably among the volunteers during the 16-week study.

Researchers in Eugene simulated the rounded, river rock cobblestones with a specially designed mat that was 6 feet long and 1 feet wide. Some of the test subjects walked in bare feet, others wore socks.

They were compared with a control group who walked for an hour, three times per week. The results were published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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