Can you help protect your back by a regular walking routine?
Back pain is one of the leading causes of missed work, and chronic back pain is something many people must cope with every day. Back pain can be excruciating, debilitating, and in some cases, even disabling. For many back pain sufferers, the types of exercise and participation in physical activities often become limited. According to Dr. Rey Bosita of Texas Back Institute, walking can be one of the most effective remedies for your back pain.
At Texas Back Institute we love participating in charity walks. They are a great way to give back, spend time with friends and get some exercise!
Our group at Race for the Cure!
The Texas Back Institute group at the American Diabetes Association Walk!
Benefits of Walking
There are many inherent health benefits from a regular routine walking for exercise, such as:
- Strengthens muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and torso. Walking increases the stability of the spine and conditions the muscles that keep the body in the upright position.
- Reduces stress. Walking helps release the feel-good chemicals endorphins and serotonin in the brain and reduces stress that often makes back pain worse.
- Nourishes the spinal structures. Walking for exercise facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into muscles and removing toxins and inflammation that are causing pain.
- Improves flexibility and posture. Exercise walking, along with regular stretching, allows greater range of motion and helps prevent awkward movements and susceptibility of future injury.
- Helps with controlling weight. Any regular exercise routine helps maintain a healthy weight, especially as one ages and metabolism slows.
For people with ongoing back pain, a balanced and stable walking regimen maintains and enhances one’s ability to continue doing everyday activities while reducing the likelihood and/or severity of additional episodes of back pain.
To realize the full benefits of walking, certain guidelines need to be followed as outlined below.
Tips to Effective Walking for Exercise
There are several stretches and techniques that will improve the benefits of walking, as well as help prevent injury.
Stretch before walking. Prior to exercise walking, stretching should be done to prepare the joints and muscles for the increased range of motion needed. It is important to take an easy five-minute walk to warm up the muscles before stretching so they’re not completely cold when stretching.
Using the following techniques will help improve the benefits of walking:
- Walk briskly, but as a general rule maintain enough breath to be able to carry on a conversation.
- Start out with a 5 minute walk and work up to walking for at least 30 minutes (roughly 2 miles) at least 3 to 4 times a week.
- Avoid hills or uneven surfaces. Hills require leaning forward and increasing your effort, so try to walk on level ground to avoid injury.
- Maintain good posture while walking to get the optimum aerobic benefit with each step and help protect the back and avoid injury. These elements of form should be followed:
- Head and shoulders: Keep the head up and centered between the shoulders with eyes focused straight ahead at the horizon. Keep the shoulders relaxed but straight—avoid slouching forward.
- Abdominal muscles: It is important to actively use the abdominal muscles to help support the upper part of the body and the spine. To do this, keep the stomach pulled in slightly and stand fully upright. Avoid leaning forward as you walk.
- Hips: The majority of the forward motion should start with the hips. Each stride should feel natural—not too long or too short. Most people make the mistake of trying to take too long of stride.
- Arms and hands: Arms should stay close to the body, with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. While walking, the arms should keep in motion, swinging front to back in pace with the stride of the opposite leg. Remember to keep hands relaxed, lightly cupped with the palms inward and thumbs on top. Avoid clenching the hands or making tight fists.
- Feet: With each step, land gently on the heel and mid-foot, rolling smoothly to push off with the toes. Be mindful about using the balls of the feet and toes to push forward with each step.
Walking can also help prevent back pain. The better toned your muscles are, the less likely you will have frequent spasms. So, strap on a good pair of tennis shoes and start walking to possibly help reduce your back pain, and keep on walking for long-term better health.
What type of exercise do you like to do to stay healthy?
****Disclaimer: Please check with your physician prior to starting any kind of exercise program to make sure you are healthy enough to begin. ****