by Matt Cairns, MScPT
As summer is finally upon us, I wanted to talk about the importance of walking. There has been a great deal of research on this basic activity and its relative effectiveness in health promotion. The current recommendation is to work towards 10,000 steps per day, which research has shown to be associated with a moderate to high physical activity level. It helps to know that it takes about 5 minutes to walk 500 steps – so adding a 30 minute walk to your day can add 3,000 steps and get you a lot closer to the daily recommended goal.
Walking is also an opportunity to work on concepts such as posture and core recruitment, as these are common areas in need of improvement for neck, shoulder and back pain. I recommend walking with your shoulders slightly back but also relaxed downwards – if this is difficult for you then try walking slower with your hands held behind your back. Do this for a few minutes then return to your normal walking posture to give your body a feeling of what shoulders back should feel like – it should not be forced.
I also recommend bringing awareness to your abdomen by gently drawing your navel inwards. This gentle activation combined with improved posture can help to recruit your core muscles in a more natural pattern.
If you want to delve deeper into walking mechanics, then try to think about walking as a series of forward propulsions as opposed to a series of forward falls. This is where the balance component comes in and will help you to walk more efficiently with less stress on your joints. Instead of falling forward to take your next step, maintain your posture and place the foot down gently. This will help to keep your weight more centered.
I realize that some of you may have mobility issues, joint pain or other problems that may limit your ability to participate in a regular exercise program, including daily walks. If this is the case, please seek appropriate medical advice or book an assessment with me to address your individual needs. Most importantly, keep active!
Renew Physiotherapy & Exercise is an Edmonton based rehabilitation and exercise therapy clinic owned by Matt Cairns. Matt is a physiotherapist specializing in exercise therapy and holds certifications in pilates, manual therapy and IMS (Dry Needling).