When you took your first steps, it hit the family headlines. Videos were taken, grandparents called — it was a big deal. What was our life’s first achievement in coordination, however, was soon replaced by more complex and demanding activities. Walking was no longer the ultimate in forward motion. Add in the 1970’s belief that cardio exercise as the only way to survive into your elder years, and walking became worse than passe; it was for those who couldn’t do anything more. However, the truth about walking is that it really constitutes a form of moderate activity, and that will usher you through life with outstanding health benefits, even if you already enjoy other forms of exercise.
In running, jogging or any sustained exercise where the goal is to reach and maintain a target heart rate, you will develop increased cardiac endurance. This prepares you well for those occasional strenuous demands (two extra flights of stairs, a weekend hike or the invariable pick-up basketball game), or a physical goal such as a marathon. But researchers post-jogging craze were not sure all that was needed for good health! The early evidence requiring 45-60 minutes of 70-85% maximum cardiac output three-to-five days a week has been challenged over again and again. And with more aggressive exertion, injuries continue to be very common. The legs of an average runner will withstand 100 tons of impact force in just one mile. Studies suggest that 20-70% of runners will suffer an activity-associated ailment as compared with 1-5% of walkers.
In 2008, researchers combed through 4,295 articles about walking. In a meta-analysis (a means of combining pertinent, reliable data) of these publications, 459,833 participants were observed over an average of 11.3 years. Here are just a couple of the findings:
- For 229 post-menopausal women who walked a mile or more for 10 years, they enjoyed 82% less risk of heart disease versus their sedentary friends.
- For those who already had heart disease, walking or riding a stationary bike 30 minutes three times a week produced a 26% reduction in the risk of death from heart disease and a 20% decrease in death rate overall.
- A 20-year study of 16,000 same-sex twins showed that people that stayed conditioned were 56% less likely to die, and those who exercised occasionally 34% less likely to die than their sedentary siblings.
Internally, beautiful things are happening when you walk. Every organ system benefits from this exercise everyone should be able to try. Lower cholesterol and blood pressure, enhanced insulin performance, reduced stiffness of the blood vessels, reduced mental stress and cellular inflammation (see my blog on N-Acetyl Cysteine for more info). Pain reduction from endorphin production and increased bone density are a couple more immediate advantages. It has also been found to protect against dementia, peripheral neuropathy, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.
So carve out some opportunities to walk — it all counts. Your pedometer or Fitbit will encourage you on the days you choose to add some extra steps. Bring a change of shoes for your lunch hour and walk 15 minutes at work. Park at an inconvenient parking space when you go shopping for a few extra strides, or maybe a block away from the job. And you don’t have to sweat to get these benefits. Walking as slowly as 2 miles per hour (somewhere between a stroll and a purposeful gait) for 5 1/2 miles per week can reduce your chance of a cardiac event (heart attack or death) by 32%, and it only gets better as you increase your pace and distance.
Sometimes kinetic faults (areas of improper joint movement) “light up” when we exercise. This can prove discouraging or debilitating and ruin our plans for getting healthy. When this happens, the best advice is to figure out the root cause and get it fixed so you can be on your way. Since Chiropractic’s concern is not surgery, our focus can remain on proper body mechanics, from the toes to the top of the spine (we even work on TMJ, though that is a little removed from this subject). We are always ready to help you move past your obstacle at a brisk pace! Just call and let’s see how we can get you on your path to great health!
photos by infobelezza.com