Parkinson's UK Oxford Branch Parkinson's UK, our parent charity

July 2019

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A Guide to Walking Well

 Pen Keyte

On 1st May 2019, Dr Nancy May (McGill University, Montréal, Canada) and Professor Helen Dawes (Oxford Brookes University) held a Walk-Well workshop at Brookes. Our Secretary, Pen Keyte, attended the event on our behalf.

This event was well attended by Oxford Branch members, and members from other local branches. I went along as an observer, and have written this guide to walking well, based on the exercises we were put through! It was very noticeable that at the end of two hours, everyone was walking more purposefully and with a more upright posture, and speedier gait. One participant commented that “the assessment and practical sessions were very informative and have encouraged us to make changes in the way we walk and the care of our feet!”


The workshop began with a 5-point assessment. We were assessed on:

  1. Walking speed: what was the comfortable gait speed, and the maximum gait speed over 5 meters? Helen’s team timed us.
  2. Balance: How long can you stand on one foot? Some people found this difficult, and some found that one foot was more reliable than the other.
  3. 30 second sit-to-stand: How many sit-to-stands can you do in 30 seconds? Sit on a firm chair without arms, cross your arms across your chest, and GO! Practising this exercise at home will result in an improvement, and make you less vulnerable to falls.
  4. Feet! Shoes and socks off for a foot inspection (which reminded me of a similar situation in Dad’s Army) However, this was no laughing matter as we stretched and spread toes, tried to lift them up and checked whether each foot had the same flexibility, tried to make our feet ‘kiss’ (that is, placing sole-to-sole), and placed each foot on the opposite knee. Two things which Dr Nancy believes are very important are: pulling your toes up and down, and washing and drying toes with a cloth, rubbing and loosening the skin around the toenails.
  5. Posture: We were asked to say whether we felt our posture was straight, slightly stooped, or stooped, and to stand against a wall with shoulders back, head up, trying to stand tall.

The rest of the workshop was devoted to learning how to walk well, and how to improve balance.

Walking Well

We learned how to do this by making sure that:

Practising these moves helps improve posture and reduces the risk of falls, since it encourages you to balance better, and to avoid the tendency to lean forward. Try for 3 minute bursts and keep it up! Dr Nancy recommends we walk for 150 minutes minimum every week, which will re-adapt our cardio-vascular clocks. We checked our ‘cadence’ - that is, the speed at which we walk. A rate of between 60 and 100 steps a minute seemed right for most people, though it varied.

Improving balance

We did this by using a walking pole to stabilise us; I don’t have poles, so I used a broom which, a friend remarked, made me look like Dick van Dyke’s character in Mary Poppins, but never mind.

Walk well, everyone!

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