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One of the seemingly fundamental stages of life for most incorporate shifting from lying as a baby to the milestone of standing and walking. But, the question of do I walk properly probably rarely ever crosses anyone’s mind unless they’ve hurt themselves. This blog will break down the benefits of walking, how do you know if you are walking properly and also how to correct some of those walking postures.
Why walking is good for you?
Most will know that we should walk more in a day and let’s reach that arbitrary number of 10,000 steps each day because my fitbit tells me that’s right. Here’s some information that may give you some comfort to know what those steps are doing for you!
- Lower Body Mass Index (BMI): Body Mass Index is not the best measurement for health outcomes as there are many exceptions that can occur that skew the results but nonetheless it is a marker that is often used in studies. According to a 2017 study from the University of Warwick that was published in the International Journal of Obesity, it confirms that individuals who walked 15,000 steps or more per day tended to have BMIs in the normal and healthy range and those that walk more and sit less had lower BMIs.
- Lower blood sugar levels : Individuals with higher blood sugar levels are known to be high risk for type II diabetes and the National Walkers’ Health study uncovered that regular walkers had 12% less risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: The same National Walkers’ Health study found that walking regularly can have a 7 % reduced risk for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Better memory: A study in 2015 found in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society in 2015 found that after 12 weeks of a prescribed daily walking exercise group of older adults in Japan there were greater improvement in memory than those in the control group who carried on with their usual routines.
- Lower stress: We all know that lower stress is better for our bodies but how does walking impact this? Walking outside allows for more oxygen intake, our brains get a chance to release endorphins that stimulate relations that impact mental processes and mood. Also, a change in scenery, new perspectives and the sense of accomplishment allows for the chance to uplift the mood and decrease stress.
- Longer Life: A systematic review from the Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in 2014, found that 3 hours of walking a week decreased the risk of premature death compared with those that had little activity by 11%!
- Decreased Aches and Pains: From a physical nature, movement is what our bodies are designed to do. Our bodies undergo changes under physical stress on the daily and it adapts to the sedentary and habitual patterns that we have to make life “easier” on our bodies. Unfortunately, these adaptations can become problems for us that can lead to neck, lower back, hip, shoulders and many more problems. An easy way to prevent these is just to get moving! Walking is a great start.
How do you know you are walking properly?
This is such a loaded question. Everyone is special and different and there are suggestions that walking is a combination of nature and nurture. Traditionally, most individuals will achieve the milestone of standing and walking and it is predictable as to the time frame in which this will happen, usually starting between months 9 and 12. However, our learned patterns of walking may well be from observing and adopting those patterns from our parents. As children, most of the patterns learned are predictable that’s why we have milestones but how those functions are accomplished are a lot more variable and we can attribute some of these habits to children watching habits that their parents may have when it comes to movement. Here are a few things to pay attention to when seeing if you walk properly:
1. Does it hurt? – if you are having pain with walking, there is a high chance that something is not working properly or is irritated and some changes may need to occur to the walking mechanics
2. Before you start walking is your body in neutral while you stand? – Neutral is a vague term so let’s break it down. Are your ears in line with your shoulders, your hips, your knees and over the middle of your foot? Bonus, are your ribs flaring forward?
3. Is your body tense while standing? – Here is a huge part of the poor habits, while you’re standing there, feel your low back. Is it soft and you can push in? Or is it tight like a metal rod?
How do I correct my walking postures?
Here is a video by the world renowned expert in spine function, injury prevention and rehabilitation, Dr. Stuart Mcgill from Backfitpro Inc., offering some amazing value on how to walk properly especially with back pain. (This video is embedded from his recent facebook video found on https://www.facebook.com/Backfitpro)
To recap some of the corrections:
1. If your low back is tight like a metal rod when you check it then you will have to find that mid zone where it will relax and to test it further, treat your ankles like a hinge and lean forward (putting pressure into the toes) and leaning back (putting pressure into the heels) without activating your back! Think of the leaning tower! (It is harder than it sounds!)
2. Jazz knees! To shake out some of the tension in the thighs and legs as standing shouldn’t be that strenuous on the body!
3. If the low back is still tight after this, try some pelvic tilts and modifications while checking the low back to see if the back tension can turn off. Try lifting the chin or even the chest a little bit and see if that makes a difference.
4. Stand on one leg and lift the opposite knee, does this cause pain? If it does, use your hands to push into your sides of your belly and fight against it. Retry lifting your leg, has the pain gone away? (this may be a strategy to help you) Try the same thing with knee circles and see if you can move without pain.
5. Now try walking with the appropriate belly bracing and walk with swinging your arms in a relaxed way!
Do you still have trouble with walking without pain?
Some of these tips and changes can be very challenging to accomplish especially if you are experiencing pain. If your low back is having a lot of challenges check out this blog about how to pick up objects off the ground as that is likely a challenge for you as well. If pain persists and is affecting your life, it is highly suggested that you go see a trusted health practitioner to assist you and get you back to walking without pain since there’s so many benefits to walking.
As always, if you have any questions about your conditions and would like to schedule an appointment with us at Baseline Health and Wellness you can give us a call at 6046744027 or schedule online at www.baselinewellness.ca
Provided by Dr. Kody Au, Vancouver Chiropractor