Yes, walking is the best place to start and I am sure many of you know this or have heard this before but are you aware that if done properly it can be highly effective for not only weight loss but also for spine health and back pain relief!
I hear from patients all the time that I walk a ton every day for work and my back hurts. Or I chase my kids all day and my back hurts. How does walking help ease back pain when I can’t walk 50 feet without my back bothering me?
This program is for anyone looking to get started again even if you have dreams and visions of running a marathon or your total couch potato wanting to just get moving again this is an effective way to get started without injuring yourself and preparing your body for bigger and better things.
Please, if you have any history of cardiovascular disease make sure to consult you family physician or cardiologist before starting any type of cardio vascular exercise.
Now for the INSTRUCTIONS:
- Any exercise you do in which you want to improve health or your bodies performance has to be done in ADDITION to and outside of your normal daily activities. Your body adapts to normal routine even hard work. In order to make a change you have to make Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID principle) on the body in order to make any changes. In other words if you walk 50 miles a day you need to walk 5 more outside of your normal routine for it to make a change or difference to your body.
- Pace-This is important and you have to remember this is exercise and is something MORE than you normally do. A good rule is “you can talk but you can’t sing”. This is walking at a very brisk pace in which you are breathing heavier than you normally would but not so heavy that it seems difficult to perform or carry on a conversation. This is also going keep you in that ideal heart rate zone you want to be in to increase and improve your “Aerobic base”. This has many cardiovascular benefits and is going to be your “weight loss heart rate zone”, or zone 2 heart rate depending on what scale you reference and if using a heart rate monitor like a Fit Bit or Garmin.
- Time spent- This is important if you want to improve Aerobic fitness you need spend a minimum amount of time performing the activity. It typically has to be MORE than 20 minutes but no more than 60 minutes. 45 minutes is the ideal time to shoot for. For people starting out I recommend starting with 15 minutes and working up to 45 to make sure you are not having any pain or problems with the exercise. The exercise has to be done a minimum of three days a week with 4-5 being ideal.
- SPINAL DECOMPRESSION- Yes that is correct if done properly walking can decompress the spine!!! There is a trick though and that is you HAVE TO SWING your arms BIG! If you walk without swinging your arms you will INCREASE spinal disc compression!! This is why people report pain with walking at work as they are typically carrying something looking down and walking much slower, this will increase spinal disc compression along pain in the low back. If you simply walk FAST with a big arm swing you activate all the core and postural muscles in the upper AND lower kinetic chains decompressing the spine. Add in the aerobic benefits which include oxygenating your postural muscles and tissues along with improving postural muscle endurance and you have one of THE best exercises you could possibly perform for your low back pain. So remember to swing those ARMS.
A few tips:
- Typically walking fast will increase your arm swing so the faster you walk the bigger the arm swing. This also means you WON’T be walking the dog on a leash, pushing a stroller, holding hands, talking or texting on the phone, etc.
- I usually tell patients this pace is going to be almost to the point of running, but it is NOT running. Running is an impact sport which at one point both feet are off the ground. With walking one foot is always on the ground. If running is your ultimate goal this can easily be worked into a walk run interval but this program should still be where you start when coming off the couch even if a marathon is your goal. 60 minutes is the most amount of time you need to perform this, if exercising more than 60 minutes nutrition and hydration become very important factors to benefitting from the exercise.
- How fast is fast? For most people when doing this for 45-50 minutes you should cover about 3 miles. When starting out use a treadmill or a flat course and avoid hills. As you progress you can add in hills or the incline on the treadmill to make it more challenging but try to stay in that same Zone 2 heart rate if weight loss is your goal. Remember when walking UP hills you need to maintain your pace and arm swing!