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Walking is a great simple, low impact exercise that you can do daily to help improve your health and overall well-being. There are many benefits for walking daily, including:
According to the Australian Physical Activity guidelines, it is recommended that healthy adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day. This can include walking throughout the day and accumulating 30 minutes or more at one time, or combining shorter sessions of activity of around 10-15 minutes each.
There are many ways that you can increase your step count, including:
There are certain circumstances where walking may not be beneficial, such as having existing conditions/injuries where walking can exacerbate the area more. Your body compensates for pre-existing injuries, meaning your body adapts to poor posture or new walking patterns because of it. Therefore, when you are walking incorrectly or have poor posture due to the new patterns your body has created, it can cause more damage and pain or stiffness to an area in the body.
Walking with incorrect footwear can put more pressure in your lower back, hips, knees and can cause plantar fasciitis (inflamed tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot). Features of incorrect footwear include:
Walking in a brisk pace is beneficial for your fitness as it increases your breathing, heart rate, balance and coordination. It is important to create mobility in the spine and strengthen the back and leg muscles to improve spinal health. By doing this, it reduces pressure on the joints, disc spaces and muscles – to help prevent back pain and stiffness overall.
Walking can help improve spinal health in many ways, including:
Walking creates mobility in the spine and improves the spine’s range of motions, therefore joints in the body are not constantly stiff. It can also help stretch out tight muscles that maybe causing back pain.
Blood circulation increases while walking, which helps promote nutrients to the spine and surrounding soft tissues. Over time, toxins can develop within the lower back muscle tissues and therefore cause stiffness. By walking, these toxins can be flushed out and improve flexibility.
Poor posture can lead to pressure in your neck, upper back and lower back and can even cause headaches! Walking encourages your spine to obtain its natural curves. Make sure your head it looking forward and not down at your phone – this can add a lot of pressure and stiffness in your neck and upper back. Walking keeps your body upright, therefore increasing stability in the spine.
Walking helps to preserve your bone density and decreases the risk of osteoporosis (bones becoming weak and brittle).
Joint fluid increases as we move, which helps to bring oxygen and nutrients into the area. This reduces the risk of stiff joints that can become inflamed and irritated (arthritis).
Walking also tones your leg and abdominal muscles, which reduces the pressure and weight from your joints to your muscles.
Individuals who suffer from medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol can benefit from walking because walking increases cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. Therefore, walking can help improve the management of these conditions.
In Australia, the most common musculoskeletal disorder and the leading cause of pain and disability is Osteoarthritis, affecting 7.8% of the population. Common risk factors for Osteoarthritis include being a female, overweight or obese. Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health shows that 100-200 minutes of walking per week decreased the reports of arthritis by over 6 years in women.
There are so many benefits when it comes to walking, fortunately it is a simple, low impact exercise that you can do daily. Just remember, everyone is different – your walking pace and duration will vary in comparison to others and is dependent on your level of tolerance. Be sure to use the correct posture when walking, keeping your spine naturally curved, shoulders relaxed and your head looking forward and aligned with your spine. Make walking enjoyable and relaxing – grab a friend or family member to go on walks with, find a good playlist or podcast to listen to while walking.