Forty plus years ago when I was enrolled in chiropractic college, I recall other students and myself always pestering our instructors about the best rehabilitation exercises to help patients gain pain relief from conditions like neck and lower back discomfort, sciatica and degenerative discs. Invariably they always replied that walking would be optimum. And now in my three plus decades of chiropractic practice I’ve come to agree. This article will discuss the matchless benefits of walking, some tips and words of advice.
Let’s review the basics. My neurology professor gave an analogy regarding walking that I’ve always remembered. He said that every army from antiquity, be it the Greeks, Romans, Napoleon’s infantry and now more modern militaries, have always taken teenage young men who were certainly less than coordinated into their various forms of boot camps. First, they taught them to stand at attention. The recruits are supposed to keep their chin back, lower abs tight and elongate their spine. Once this is accomplished, they march and march and march with that good posture. By the end of bootcamp, marching with good posture, along with their other training, transforms them into the ablest military personnel on the planet.
We can all profit from this advice: as we are walking stand tall, tighten our stomach muscles and swing our arms as if we were marching under the watchful eyes of a drill sergeant.
There are many health benefits from walking. It helps strengthen our muscles in a gentle way, aids in weight control and improves overall conditioning. Our spinal discs, which are like spongy shock absorbers between our vertebrae, are lightly “pumped” as we walk which brings nutrients in, washes waste products out and keeps the discs healthy. The motion of alternatively swinging our arms and legs gives input into the brain and nervous system which helps coordinate and regulate systems of the body – digestion, endocrine, immunity and cardio/respiratory functions are improved
It’s a good idea to walk on a soft surface like a trail, grass field or a track versus walking on a sidewalk or asphalt road to lessen the impact on the spine and lower extremities.
My experience of helping patients gain neck and lower back pain relief has led me to discover that continuous walking is much more advantageous than an interrupted stroll such as walking the dog or playing a round of golf. Fifteen minutes of steady walking is better than an hour walk where Fido is stopping you every thirty seconds.
Anyone who knows me, will confirm that my favorite exercise is walking. Walking with good, upright, erect posture while swinging the arms appropriately is what human beings have done for millennia and what we are designed for. I’ve come to learn that my patients who are lifetime walkers are the healthiest overall, especially well into their later years. Try walking and enjoy its many benefits!
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