Almost everybody in this day and age will get injured or have surgery at one time or another. Modern rehabilitation techniques include “rest”, “taking it [relatively] easy”, and walking… that’s right! RELATIVELY easy, and WALKING! The art of “rest” is described really well in this article from Painscience. It is important to note the blurred lines between “rest” and “active rehabilitation”. The key is relativity – if you were supremely active before, it is “rest” for you to be only half as active. If you were pumping triple digits at the gym before, it is “light weights” to drop to double digits. If you’re a mum taking care of increasingly larger kids, then it’s enough to lift them less often.
But lets talk about walking! Walking is not only a regressed form of exercise for the joggers and exercise junkies out there – it is actually shown to be MORE beneficial for your recovery then complete bed rest! Even some fractures heal better when they’re not completely immobilised. Likewise, the circulation benefits of walking accelerate your recovery from a myriad of cuts, injuries, and surgeries much better than lying still, if your injury prevents you from walking, physio and regular exercise are still recommended!
There are very few contraindications to walking, i struggle to think of any in the general populations, short of a severe bacterial infection or two broken legs! In the elderly, contraindications are:
- Recent electrocardiogram changes or recent myocardial infarction
- Uncontrolled arrhythmia
- Unstable angina
- Third degree heart block
- Acute progressive heart failure.
- Elevated blood pressure
- Valvular heart disease
- Complex ventricular ectopy
- Uncontrolled metabolic disease.
Even with one broken leg, you can half the muscle atrophy in the unbroken leg by continuing to use it.
Conversely, there are many reasons TO walk! Obviously vary the intensity depending on your circumstances, and if possible, start walking while you’re still healthy!
Why we WANT you to walk:
- Improve bone health: Walking is a weight bearing exercise! There are regular, small, amounts of impact (read: vibration) every single step. This has been shown to improve femoral bone density (thigh bone).
- Improve mental health: Walking and moderate exercise are treatments for stress, depression, and anxiety!
- Hormone benefits: Walking has been shown to reduce the hormones responsible for stress and over eating, as well as boost the hormones that assist with your immune function, particularly when performed in natural settings.
- Oxygenation of cells and tissues: Now, not to freak you out, but this is correlated with recovery from cancer. But the good news is that walking alone ticks 3 out of 6 boxes to oxygenate your body (exercise, deep breathing, get in to nature). We don’t want to say outright that walking prevents cancer, but there are good indications that regular and moderate walking can help you get better.
- Cardio and health health benefits: Walking reduces cardiovascular events by over 30%, and also cuts the risk of dying by over 30%. As morbid as that sounds, these benefits were seen in this particular study in people whether they walked 2 miles a week, or over 5, demonstrating it is the regularity that is key, not necessarily the distance or speed (although they did see proportionately decreased risks with those that went further and faster or both).
- Strength benefits: You read right! This goes hand in hand with strong bones. With every step you take when you walk, there is a moment of impact, where you free-fall with gravity for a split second, and land on the alternate foot. When that foot lands, it is called “impact” and is absorbed as vibration up the bones and muscles of the lower limb. The steeper the decline that you’re walking on, the higher the force absorption of each leg, every step. In this way, you are essentially strength training in micro-amounts, every time you land!
- Boost Vit D: We have already discussed that walking in nature is better than walking in the city, but in either scenario, make sure you get some spots of sunlight on your skin! VitD is vital for healthy bonesand teeth, boosting your immune, brain, and nervous systems, regulating insulin and diabetes, supporting health and lung health, and influencing the expression of genes involved in cancer development. Yikes! Even if you can’t walk get outside occasionally peeps!
- Thoracic movement: Our lifestyles impact this to a degree, as computer and pram-pushing postures can reduce the mobility of the thoracic spine. However, walking is still a cross-body movement, the opposite hand to foot swings each step. You can exaggerate this by learning the “swagger” (contained in the Thoracic Movement link). Thoracic spine movement is important for many reasons, including a reduction in pain and stiffness, and an increased lung volume (see oxygenation of cells!!).
- Movement: Any movement triggers a release of synovial fluid, the lubrication of the joints. When walking, this occurs in your feet (depending on your footwear), knees, hips, spine, and shoulders… to name a few. This effectively “loosens” up your joins, releasing restrictions, and improving quality of movement. In fact, it is for this reason that walking is recommended for arthritis sufferers, and has shown benefits like improving range of motion at the affected joint, and improving balance.
- Recovery benefits: Yes! If you walk on your rest days, you will recover from your last session quicker. For the bloodthirsty among you, this means you can train more! For the more moderate, it means shorter muscle soreness periods.
If you need any more convincing, i’ll eat my hat!
Early bird pricing is already in place for our Hiking Group 2017. The group includes 3 weekends away (two of which are in the Blue Mountains), gym access, training program, weekly hikes (outside and off trail, FYI), and the company of 15 top humans!
27th August 2018: Join our 2018 Hiking Group here!