Just as children have a whole new world open up to them when they begin walking, so walking can bring you to new adventures while opening up a healthier, longer, more independent existence. For all the health benefits you can derive from walking, it too often receives the short shrift.
Aerobic exercises like running may prepare you for many athletic endeavors. But walking is the key to avoiding back pain. It provides an accessible and, for the most part, free form of moderate exercise. And in a time when 80 percent of Americans complain about back pain at some point in their lives, that’s nothing to ignore.
Which Comes First?
You don’t have to wait until you start experiencing back pain to begin a regular walking program. It’s the kind of exercise that easily fits into any lifestyle. Walking can help you prevent back pain and other ailments in a number of ways. For example, walking:
- Strengthens bones
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves posture and flexibility
- Stabilizes your spine
- Strengthens the muscles in your legs, feet, hips and core
- Improves circulation
- Boosts metabolism to maintain a healthy weight
- Improves balance and coordination
- Strengthens your heart
- Lowers blood pressure
And if you have ongoing back pain, walking can help you participate in everyday activities while reducing your pain to more manageable levels.
At the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI), you’ll first be encouraged to take a more conservative route to treating your back pain. Doctors at SSI always prefer to try the least invasive treatments when you come in with back pain. And walking usually plays a big role in your early treatment. By taking small, practical steps to get you back on your feet in the least amount of time possible, you have a much better chance of avoiding back surgery.
You only need a comfortable pair of shoes to get started. It’s the least expensive form of exercise and by starting out slowly, on flat surfaces, the impact on your back is minimal. After you’ve built up your strength and developed a regular routine, you can incorporate some hills and stairs into your route to challenge yourself.
To get the most benefits from a regular walking regimen and to focus on back pain prevention, you should employ safe walking techniques. The physical therapy staff at SSI can help you modify your walking program to best suit your needs. A few walking tips to get you started on building a healthier back include:
- Walk slowly for the first five minutes to warm up your body.
- Gently stretch before walking at a brisker pace to prepare your muscles and joints for the pressure and range of motion.
- Gradually increase your pace.
- Maintain your breath so that you can continue a conversation while walking.
- Keep up a brisk pace.
- Gradually work up to walking for 30 minutes.
- Walk to prevent back pain at least three times a week, ideally for 30 minutes.