Few people would think of walking as cure for many of the ailments we all accept as part of our modern lifestyle but it is now recognised as one of the best exercises you can do at any age.
If you suffer from low back problems you should consider including walking as part of your regular daily exercise routine. If your neighbourhood is one where you don’t feel comfortable walking then think about joining a gym and get on the treadmill with your IPOD or MP3 player.
A recent study by UCLA researchers found that a group of low back pain patients who did 3 hours brisk walking per week had considerably less pain and distress than a group who were given specific low back exercises.
Before you grab your walking shoes and rush outside there are a few points to consider if you want to reap the maximum benefit from your walking.
The first is stretching. Always do a few gentle stretches before and after your walk – find out from your healthcare practitioner what stretches are the most suitable for yourself.
The muscles should always be warm before stretching, and the stretch should always be gentle. Current research indicates that the stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds to be fully effective. Always ensure that your breathing is relaxed and rhythmic – holding your breath will make any stretch ineffective. It is also important to stretch on both sides to maintain symmetry. As a general rule do warm up stretching exercises starting at the top of your body and work downward.
Here are some examples of suitable stretches for walking. Please note that these are for illustrative purposes only. You should consult a dedicated book or worksheet before doing these stretches.
Secondly is posture. There is no point in walking if your posture is all wrong. Before you set out try this simple check. Stand with your back against a closed door. Try to align your shoulders against the door. Now try touching the door with the back of your head, your buttocks and your heels at the same time. If you can manage this then your body is in the correct alignment.
Try taking your first few steps with your head held high, looking straight ahead. Keep those tummy muscles pulled in. Try to avoid leaning forward when you walk. Don’t worry if you find walking like this a bit strange at first concentrate initially on holding your head high looking straight ahead after a few days you will find your are starting to walk more upright
Thirdly and equally important is footwear. If you suffer from lower back problems consider investing in a good pair of walking shoes or boots. You should wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes that provide good arch support. The best shoe for one person may not necessarily be the most suitable for another. It may even pay dividends to visit a podiatrist to see if it would be to your advantage to have heel inserts.
If you are new to walking start off gently, do not overdo it for the first few sessions. Gradually build up to walking at least 30 minutes each day – this is believed to be sufficient to decrease your risk of heart disease. If you can build it up to an hour per day it is believed you will decrease your risk of breast cancer and type two diabetes.
The information in this article should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. You should always consult with your health care professional as to the suitability of walking or any exercises described in this article and especially for health matters that may require diagnosis or medical attention.