Health Matters: Walking Your Way to Better Health | Health & Fitness

Remember, everything counts when you walk – walk breaks during your workday or even parking further away at the grocery store.

For those who live with pain or develop pain from current or past injuries that haven’t healed correctly, walking can actually alleviate pain. Pain reduction can occur despite the common belief that moving will only make the pain worse. The notion that activity will increase pain can lead to decreased physical activity over time.

Physical therapists see this daily — people stop doing all the things they love because they fear increased injury or irritation.

Remember, though, “motion is lotion.” The United States Surgeon General recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic weekly. Still, the intensity level is different for everyone based on what our bodies are accustomed to. Walking benefits the healing process through improved oxygen delivery to the muscles. It also improves joint health by maintaining the lubrication needed to combat stiffness. In addition, physical therapists note decreased walking speed and lack of distance tolerance as a health concern. A slow gait is shown to be the single best predictor of functional decline and disability. These factors are also tied closely to increased risk of mortality. So, what to do? The best thing is to establish a regular walking program.

Whether you use trekking poles while you walk to help with balance, walk unassisted, use the company of your dog, family member, friend, or walk alone – it’s all about getting moving. As with any fitness program, pacing yourself at the beginning is essential. The advancements in step monitors (mentioned above) come in handy when establishing a walking routine. They help keep you motivated and help you to monitor your progress over time. If you’re unsure where to start or how you can get past that nagging injury, an assessment by a professional physical therapist is your best resource.