The Benefits of Walking
There are countless physical activities out there, but walking has the lowest dropout rate of them all! It’s the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your general health.
Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
1. Lubricate joints and increase circulation to muscles- essential for patients who suffer from arthritis, low back pain, or chronic muscle strains
2. Strengthen your bones
3. Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
4. Improve your balance and coordination
5. Maintain a healthy weight
6. Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
7. Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
8. Improve blood lipid profile
9. Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
10. Enhance mental well being
11. Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
12. Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes
13. Elevate your mood
The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
Consider your technique
Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here’s how you’ll look when you’re walking:
1. Your head is up. You’re looking forward, not at the ground.
2. Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
3. You’re swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is fantastic and encouraged.
4. Ensure you’re using your core- your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
5. You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
6. Plan your routine
As you start your walking routine, remember to:
Get the right gear. Choose shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock. If you walk outdoors when it’s dark, wear bright colours or reflective tape for visibility.
Choose your course carefully. If you’ll be walking outdoors, avoid paths with tree roots, cracked sidewalks, potholes, low-hanging limbs or uneven turf.
Warm up. Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for exercise.
Cool down. At the end of your walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to help your muscles cool down.
Stretch. Again, you should walk for a few minutes to increase circulation (and warm up the muscles), and then do some light dynamic stretches (kicking heels to your bum, bringing your knee to your chest, etc). After you cool down, gently stretch your muscles as well. When you are calling down, you want to engage in static stretches (holding the position for a period of time versus elongating the muscle through moment).
The rule of thumb is you stretch prior to activity to prevent injury, and you stretch after to promote flexibility.
When to Walk
Getting into the activity habit is easiest if you choose a specific time each day. If you are a morning person, consider walking before you go to work or after the kids are off to school.
Not a morning person? A walk on your lunch break will work up an appetite and help your digestion.
Alternatively, if evening is the best time for you, schedule your walk after dinner and evening chores are completed.
The important thing is to decide on the best time for you and try not to allow other things to get in the way.
Look at your walk as an enjoyable break in your day – a time when there are no chores to do or deadlines to meet. Breathe deeply. Look up at the sky, the trees and the rooftops. Smile. Life gets better when you fit in a walk.
Have a great day,
Dr. Crysta Serné
Vancouver Chiropractor and owner of Vitality Clinic