Research and Science: David L. Anderson

Research and Science: David L. Anderson


Alexander Technique teacher and kinesiologist David Anderson gave a presentation on an exploratory study he and his colleagues conducted that has so far resulted in two papers published in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies in 2015 and 2016, with a third paper about to be submitted for publication. The titles of the two papers are “Effects of Alexander Technique Training Experience on Gait Behavior in Older Adults” and “Older Adult Alexander Technique Practitioners Walk Differently than Healthy Age-Matched Controls.”



David put the study in context of today’s need.  Quoting directly from his slides, “Gait deteriorates with age. The percentage of older adults afflicted with gait dysfunction increases from 24 percent at ages 70-74, to 59 percent at ages 80-84.  Gait disorders are believed to be the direct and indirect result of aging - specifically after the sixth decade of life – and serve as a robust predictor of morbidity and mortality. Characteristics of older adult gait are linked with loss of mobility and increased risk of falling.”  David gave technical and scientific data to support the research, but readily acknowledged his small sample size of six Alexander Technique teachers and seven control participants.  David and his colleagues will pursue funding to continue this critical work.  According to the CDC and DHHS, cost of falls in the US in 2013 was $34 billion, and by 2060 will reach $98 billion!  The health industry is taking notice.


David’s slides were illustrative and educational.  He went into detail about such issues as decreased step length stemming from decreased hip range of motion (ROM) and ankle plantar flexor ROM and power, loss of hip ROM thought to be due to hip flexor contractures, increased anterior pelvic tilt to compensate for impaired hip ROM, increased double support time, increased M-L displacement and velocity of the center of mass (COM), increased variability of gait timing and stride width, and decreased dynamic stability.  These all lead to loss of mobility and increased risk of falling.


For the purposes of this brief overview, the primary findings can be superficially summarized. Temporospatially,  Alexander Technique teachers showed greater dynamic stability, evidenced by significantly smaller medial to lateral (M-L) excursion of the body’s center of mass (COM), stride width, and gait timing variability. These temporospatial differences were accompanied by greater ranges of motion at the ankle, knee, and hip joints in the Alexander Technique teachers – the greater range of plantar flexion during the push-off phase of walking, the phase that powers walking was particularly striking. The teachers also had more stable heads and trunks and a more upright posture throughout the gait cycle, which was most apparent when each foot made contact with the ground. The control participants tended to be leaning backwards when each foot struck the ground. Kinetically, AT teachers’ balance control was like that of healthy young adults, evidenced by significantly lower center of mass velocity with eyes closed on an unstable surface and smaller head angular displacement with eyes closed on unstable surface, suggesting superior vestibular functioning. 


In closing, David came to the pithy conclusion,Alexander Technique Teachers Rock”! Yet, in all seriousness, these findings clearly suggest that practicing the Alexander Technique is an excellent way to prevent or delay the deleterious changes in gait and balance that accompany aging and minimize the risk of falling.