Reflexology Path Research
Reports of associated health benefits associated with reflexology path walking typically are based on word-of-mouth until research validated them. The Chinese tradition of “stone stepping” underwent controlled testing at the Oregon Research Institute.
As noted in Un-Sit Your Life by Barbara and Kevin Kunz: American researchers attending a conference in Shanghai became intrigued with reflexology paths when they saw people walking on one in a city park there. Researchers John Fischer, Fuzhong Li and Peter Harmer of the Oregon Research Institute came home and conducted a study to see if the traditional use of the paths for health would be verified by research.
Study results showed, compared to those who walked on a flat surface, the mat walkers experienced significantly reduced pain and diastolic blood pressure; greatly improved perceptions of control over falls; significantly reduced daytime sleepiness; increased psychosocial well- being and provided considerable improvements in ability to perform activities of daily living.
“Cobblestone mat walking (3 times a week for 45 minutes over 8 weeks ) improved physical function and reduced blood pressure to a greater extent than conventional walking in older adults. Additional benefits of this walking program included improved health-related quality of life. This new physical activity may provide a therapeutic and health-enhancing exercise alternative for older adults.”
The results prompted the researchers to dub mat walking as “enhanced walking.” Two “possible reasons” for what the researchers called the “pronounced and somewhat surprising results” considering the short duration were noted. First, members of the two groups were physically inactive. The physical activity “might have potentiated more improvements in health outcomes.” Second, “the novel nature of this foot stimulation activity (i.e. applying pressure to acupoints on the soles of the feet) might have contributed to the magnitude of our observed multiple outcomes.” Possible mechanisms of action were not noted.