You’ve got to Walk the Walk
The Most Ancient Exercise is now the Most Modern Medicine
Change Your Walking Habits: Change Your Life
Exercise, if you could put it in a pill it would be demanded by patients, prescribed by every doctor and subsidised by governments. Its health benefits are far-reaching and almost too good to be true.
Yet, in the most recent report by the Australian Institute of Heath and Welfare, less than 46% of adults are achieving the recommended level of activity.
Two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week is all it takes for you to achieve the physical recommendations. We aren’t talking running half marathons, or sweating buckets over a 45 minutes workout from hell here.
This ‘wonder pill’ is something many of us could do before we were a year old. And if you didn’t quite pick it up from the heading, it’s WALKING.
Walking can have a bigger impact on disease risk and various health conditions than just about any other remedy that’s readily available to you, and in the words of Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “it’s the closest thing we have to a wonder drug”.
From heart disease, diabetes and cancer through to dementia, acquired brain injury and depression, walking has been shown to play a large roll in risk reduction and a valued treatment modality. This seemingly basic activity has also been gaining traction in the gerontology world as a reliable marker for overall health and longevity.
Benefits of Walking for Health
The heart. Walking improves the cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, vascular stiffness and inflammation. A study out of the University of California found that regular walking was linked to a 7 per cent reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The same study found that walkers had a 12per cent lower risk of developing type 2-diabetes.
Arthritis and joints. Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
Boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
Better memory and cognitive function. A clinical trial published in the American Geriatrics Society in 2015 found that after 12 weeks, men and woman in a prescribed daily walking exercise group had significantly greater improvement in memory and executive function compared with those in a control group.
Mood and creativity. Walking – especially out in nature – encourage the production of neurotransmitters in the brain that help improve ones mental state. In fact, 16 weeks of regular exercise has been found to be equally effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that looked at walking as a specific exercises found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week.
Predicts life expectancy. Studies out of Japan analysing walking speed showed that an older person’s pace, along with their age and gender, can predict their life expectancy. So instead of a doctor assessing a patient’s blood pressure, body mass index, chronic conditions, hospitalization and smoking history, we could simply time the patient walking a few meters and predict just as accurately the person’s likelihood of living five or 10 more years.
The Spinal Centre Comment
Lace up your walking shoes
One of the wonderful things about walking is that you don’t need special skills, or fancy equipment. The main thing is to walk naturally and comfortably.
If you want help hitting that ideal stride here are some easy tips. Try to keep your posture erect with your chin up, eyes forward and chest lifted up with shoulders back. Keep your back straight, belly engaged and your arms close to your sides with elbows bent. Step lightly, rolling from heel to toe as you stride, not landing flat-footed.
If you are experiencing niggles or pains when walking it may be due to changes in the biomechanics of your spine (subluxation). In this case take to Dr. Hooper or Rehabilitation Team on your next appointment.
If you like this article be sure to visit the Spinal Centre website at www.thespinalcentre.com.au and view more content by Dr. Hooper and the Spinal Rehabilitation Team.
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