Students Staff

22 September 2014

Walk this way

Dr Matthew Taylor with volunteer Margaret Taylor

Dr Matthew Taylor with volunteer Margaret Taylor

The vast majority of us take it for granted, but what does how you walk say about you? Well, scientists at Essex are hoping to find out.

The team at Essex are embarking on a long-term study where they will monitor people’s mobility and gait – ie how they walk – and see how it changes over time.

They are looking to recruit 1,000 volunteers aged 55 and over to take part in the research where they will have their walking analysed once a year for ten years to see if it changes.

“Using reflective markers attached to the body allows us to look at a person’s gait in three dimensions in great detail. From this we can see if their gait changes over time and these changes may indicate there are problems,” explained biomechanics and gait expert Dr Matthew Taylor.

The testing at the University’s Human Performance Unit will involve the volunteers walking and turning wearing reflective markers, which are then recorded and can be compared to previous testing to see if a volunteer is walking differently.

Essex Dean of Health Professor Jo Jackson, who is also leading in the study, said: “We hope this research will give us a better understanding of how the ageing process affects walking and to see if there are early indicators which can predict potential problems in the future.”

The study is the latest to be carried out by the University’s Ageing and Assisted Living Network, which brings together researchers with expertise in biology, psychology, social and health science, computing and engineering to carry out a wide range of research in this area.

The research will also involve a community-based study where the research team will aim to carry out balance, gait, and strength testing in community centres and social clubs.

“Walking is an action which we don’t really think about and take for granted until we start to have a problem with it,” added Professor Jackson. “It is only when we have to think about our walking that we realise how important it is and how complicated a process it is.”

For example, changes to arm movement or step length during walking may indicate early signs of dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, possible problems elsewhere or an early indicator of the volunteer being at risk of falls.

The researchers are hoping for a wide range of volunteers over the age of 55 to take part, as long as they have not had surgery in the past three months and can walk without assistance.

Anyone interested in taking part in the study is asked to call Dr Matthew Taylor on 01206 872818 or email


Note to Editors

For more information or a photo of one of the volunteers taking part in the study please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

...more news releases