People who suffer with lower back pain should consider the benefits of walking as a low-impact form of exercise. Aerobic exercise has long been shown to reduce the incidence of lower back pain. However, people with lower back pain often find some forms of exercise too painful to continue, and therefore don’t get the exercise they need to maintain good health. Exercise walking is one way to keep fit while not aggravating the structures in the lower back.
Benefits of Exercise Walking
A regular routine of exercise walking has many health benefits...
- It strengthens muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and torso, increasing the stability of the spine and conditioning the muscles that keep the body in the upright position.
- It facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into soft tissues and draining toxins, nourishing the spinal structures.
- It improves flexibility and posture. Exercise walking along with regular stretching allows greater range of motion; helps prevent awkward movements, and susceptibility of future injury.
- It strengthens bones and reduces bone density loss which helps prevent osteoporosis and can aid in reducing osteoarthritis pain.
- It helps with controlling weight - any regular exercise routine helps maintain a healthy weight, especially as one ages and metabolism slows.
Before setting off consider your footwear and where you are walking, ensure you wear comfortable shoes that are not too tight in the front. The right walking shoes can help foster excellent balance and posture during exercise walking, while poorly fitted walking shoes can cause pain or increase susceptibility to injury.
There are times when walking boots are not always appropriate if you have injuries, such as a chronic Achilles injury which doesn’t always tolerate stiff heavy walking boots when used on uneven surfaces.
Stretching before Walking
Prior to exercise walking, gentle 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 first so they’re not completely cold when stretching.
Techniques for Exercise 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, working up to around 30 minutes (approx 2 miles) at least 3 to 4 times a week. Maintain good form 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: 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 midfoot, 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