If you have tried to get fit in the past by walking but haven’t seen results, then WalkActive may be the answer. By taking this simple movement back to basics, Joanna Hall’s WalkActive has helped thousands of individuals make radical changes to their body shape, posture, joints and health all through walking.
This blog post outlines the Scientific study conducted by Dr Darren James & his team at the Sports & Exercise & Nutrition Research Centre of London South Bank University. Their study concluded the significant benefits of the WalkActive technique over normal walking, the findings were first reported in The Telegraph in 2014.
The WalkActive technique has been scientifically verified to:
- Significantly improve posture
- Reduce joint strain at knee and ankle
- Improve overall body shape especially waistline and
- Increase walking speed by up to 23%
The Sports & Exercise & Nutrition Research Centre of London South Bank University is internationally recognised for its expertise in movement neuroscience, muscle metabolism and clinical and applied science. Dr Darren James research revolves around the science of walking, and can be summarised under four themes: neuromechanical function, clinical, gait analysis, the influence of footwear and functional variability.
To promote and maintain health, adults aged 18 to 65 should undertake at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, defined as activity that accelerates heart rate and is equivalent to a brisk walk (Haskell et al., 2007). To meet this target, the leisurely walker would have to increase speed or incorporate additional elements within their
walking. WalkActive encourages walking using the whole of the body through a 4 part process but until now there has been no scientific study to assess the value of the technique. This study aims to verify that the WalkActive technique gives health benefits over normal walking. If so, then the impact of this technique when prescribing physical activity cannot be overstated.
In December 2013, participants were invited to take part in a scientific study that aimed to demonstrate the effects of Joanna Hall’s WalkActive technique. From thousands of submissions, 24 participants, whose only physical activity amounted to leisurely walking, were chosen to follow the 28-day plan. Their responses would be compared with a control group of 10 people who were matched for baseline physical activity, who received no training and were asked not to alter their lifestyle.
Both the WalkActive and control participants visited South Bank University’s biomechanics laboratory for pre-intervention measurements. These consisted of health-related indices – mass, height, resting blood pressure, heart rate, estimated body fat percentage and blood cholesterol (total cholesterol and HDL) – and a full-body gait analysis for the assessment of posture, joint loading and skeletal alignment. This was achieved by creating a 3D model of each individual using 45 spherical markers positioned at anatomically relevant sites.
The 3D position and trajectory of each marker was then captured by eight infrared motion- analysis cameras. The gait analysis protocol required 10 repeated barefoot walking trials at individually preferred walking speed along a 10-metre walkway.
Each participant was required to make full foot contact with two force platforms embedded
in the walkway; only data from the left side were entered for analysis. Participants were allowed as much time as possible to familiarise themselves with the conditions and the laboratory environment. Following this, the WalkActive group took part in a month’s training of the technique.
The intervention began with an introductory workshop to familiarise the group with the basic components of the technique, followed
by two weekly group sessions with Joanna and her elite WalkActive team. Each participant was set homework to concentrate on the WalkActive technique, and to perform the Abdominal J exercises.
The control group received no intervention period and were instructed not to change their lifestyle in any way. There were no dietary restrictions placed on either group. After the month’s training, the participants were invited back to the laboratory for post-intervention measurements to assess the effect of WalkActive training.
They were asked to provide their interpretation of the technique during the gait analysis
(with no further instruction provided by the investigators). It was anticipated that these participants would display an increase in walking speed so, to control for the effect
of this, the average percentage increase in walking speed from the WalkActive group was translated onto the walking speed of individual control group members during their re-test measurements.
We were interested in finding interaction effects in the data; meaning, where the responses in one group changed for a given measure between pre- and post-intervention tests, the other group would demonstrate no change or an opposite effect.
Walking speed increased in the WalkActive group by 23%. All of these participants reported that their level of physical activity had increased since taking part in the study, whereas none of the control group reported this. 96% of WalkActive participants reported that their general wellbeing had improved since starting the study, as opposed to 0% in the control group. Moreover, the WalkActive participants continued exercising after the study period, further improving their wellbeing.
As a result of the 28-day plan, significant reductions were found in body mass (2%), estimated body fat percentage (3%), and in the skinfold measurement (15%). Participants walked taller following the 28-day plan: their centre of mass vertical displacement was significantly greater than pre-intervention measurements as a result of improved posture and skeletal alignment. Correspondingly, ground forces during the single-limb support phase of walking were significantly lower, causing noticeable reductions in the force experienced at the knee and ankle joints.
Darren James, PhD
Sports & Exercise Science and Nutrition Research Centre, Department of Applied Sciences, FESBE