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Walking to a different beat


Brigid Veale
20 May 2009
Taking longer steps when you are walking, rather than increasing your speed, could be an effective way of using more energy and potentially losing weight, according to researchers at Southern Cross University.

To test the theory, exercise scientists in the School of Health and Human Sciences, are seeking women of all shapes and sizes, aged between 45 and 60, to take part in a walking study.

The participants will be required to visit the Lismore campus three times, to take part in tests on their walking styles.

Dr Wendy Gilleard, an Associate Professor in biomechanics, is conducting the research with Dr Shi Zhou, an Associate Professor in exercise physiology, and Dr Rosanne Coutts, a lecturer in sports and exercise psychology.

“Physical activity is very important as mortality in Australia could be reduced by 30 – 40 per cent if the current national physical activity guidelines were met,” Dr Gilleard said.

“Walking is a great way to exercise and the guidelines say to walk at a comfortable pace, but can we use more energy if we change the stepping pattern?

“We are interested in your physical response and how you feel when you walk using your preferred step pattern and whether that is different when the pattern is changed.”

Dr Gilleard said each person had a ‘natural’ preferred stride, both in length and speed.

“This is the most energy efficient and means that you can walk at that pace for a long time. If you are walking for exercise, however, you are trying to burn more energy,” she said.

“We know that if you walk faster you burn more energy and if you take longer steps you also burn more energy. We know that for people in the normal weight range, but we are looking at the impact for people who are overweight or obese.

“For this study we are seeking women aged 45-60, of all shapes and sizes. Women who are short, average, or tall, of average weight or significantly overweight, are all welcome to take part.”

The studies will be conducted in P block, at the Lismore Campus. Participants will be required to walk at their preferred speed on three different days. Information on energy used and how people walk will be collected by wearing special small sensors that send information back to a computer. Information on feelings and mood will also be collected by completing simple questionnaires before, during, and after the walks. Overall each test will take about one hour.

If you would like to participate or would like further information contact Mr Yung-Sheng Chen (Thomas) by email or 66203759. The project has been approved by the Southern Cross University Ethics Committee.

Photo: Melanie Mills puts her walking style to the test.