National Walking Month: The benefits of walking and low-impact exercise

May is National Walking Month is a great time to remind ourselves that not only is walking totally free, but it’s one of the simplest and best ways to invest in your long-term health.

Here are some key takeaways from the article:

  • Proper posture and form are crucial – stand tall, engage your core, relax your shoulders and let arms swing naturally.
  • Quality shoes provide a stable base, impact absorption and injury prevention for long walks.
  • Switching directions by walking backwards/sideways engages more muscles for enhanced benefits.
  • Persistent joint pain may indicate issues needing assessment – a physiotherapist can diagnose and address underlying causes.
  • Physiotherapy treatments like MBST can tackle damage, inflammation and pain to improve mobility.
  • Regular walking strengthens muscles, bones and cardiovascular health while boosting mood.
  • Small fitness modifications like taking the stairs accumulate into significant long term payoffs.
  • Appreciating nature and architecture makes walks more rewarding – added perks alongside physical boosts.

By taking a daily walk, and employing the correct ways of walking, your muscles, joints and skeleton can all benefit, along with your general fitness and well-being. Walking brings with it many benefits, including helping to strengthen muscles, supporting bone health and improving cardiovascular fitness.

Evidence confirms that most healthy adults typically take between 4,000 and 18,000 steps per day, with 10,000 being a reasonable number for an active adult. That number can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not normally very active but a little bit of movement can go a long way.

Enjoying the great outdoors or stepping out closer to home

This May is the perfect time to see some of the brilliant scenery that the UK has to offer, from rolling hills and dramatic countryside to the brilliant architecture in many of the nation’s cities to stunning seaside strolls to take in the breezy coastal air.

Walking doesn’t have to mean hours spent trekking either, it can mean a quick stretch around the local park or leaving the car at home to take a wander to the shops instead.

Even small changes like taking the stairs instead of using the lift or escalators can mean you’re bringing more physical activity into your daily routine, which can build into bigger health benefits down the line.

How to walk well and reap the benefits of exercise

Getting started with walking might seem easy enough, after all, we take steps every day. However, without walking ‘correctly’ we can actually incur more damage than good, so it’s important to walk properly to get the most benefits out of your stroll or hike.

Here are our top tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of the world’s easiest fitness fix:

Get the right posture and stance

Slouched or hunched spines can be worsened or even suffer an injury during a walk or stroll, so it’s important to stand tall, engage your core and keep your spine elongated as you stroll.
Also make sure you’re looking straight ahead, which means don’t stare down at your phone but focus on the world around you as you walk.

Relax your shoulders and your arms

Many of us naturally hold tension in our shoulders and this can be carried into our walk, causing us to slouch when we shouldn’t be.
To ensure that you have the correct position, push your shoulders up to your ears, roll them back, and then drop them down, this is where your shoulders should be as you walk.
Another way to help keep tension out of your shoulders when you are walking is to let your arms naturally swing forwards and back rather than across your body, which can help to keep your posture tall.

Invest in the right equipment

Equipment doesn’t have to mean shelling out or paying a hefty price tag, especially with walking being a free and enjoyable exercise but you do need to make sure you have the right footwear, outerwear and even walking poles if you need them to build up your fitness or help with balance.
Your feet are the foundation of your body and poor footwear can have a detrimental impact on your knees, hips and spine. If you know that you will be walking for sustained periods of time, choose a shoe that pads and contours your foot but also fits snugly around the heel providing stability and helping you to walk properly.

Walk backwards and sideways

No, we aren’t crazy, but walking backwards engages the glutes even more effectively than walking forwards. We don’t suggest that you only ever walk backwards, but changing direction every so often can ‘pre-engage’ the glutes (gluteus maximus) so they are more likely to engage when walking forwards.
You can reap the benefits by walking sideways too, which pre-engages the gluteus medius.

Speak to a medical professional if you’re worried about any health concerns

If you experience any persistent joint pain when walking, you should consult a medical professional such as a physiotherapist and/or podiatrist to address any misalignment or muscle weakness.
A physiotherapist can help to assess, diagnose, treat, and prevent a wide range of injuries or mobility problems that may worsen as a result of walking.
Seeking appropriate physiotherapy treatment can help to repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and best of all, improve your quality of life.

Discuss the benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle with the experts

If you’re keen to embrace the benefits of walking and low-impact exercise but worried about a niggle, an ongoing injury or chronic pain, then speaking to a medical professional can help.

The MBST Medical UK team can offer advice on tackling pain, as well as how to embrace a healthy lifestyle that can bring a wealth of benefits. Get in contact to speak with the expert team for further advice on improving your mobility and staying active.

Written by

MBST UK

A community of dedicated healthcare professionals who incorporate MBST therapy into our clinical practices. We are comprised of the most qualified practitioners in musculoskeletal health, including Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Physiotherapists and Surgeons, and we always do what is best for each patient.

May 11, 2023

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