Thomas Jefferson said, "Of all exercise walking is the best!". Walking has long been a favorite pastime of Americans, but we don't really expect much from a walk. Walking is an effective, safe, efficient, and free exercise. Walking benefits your whole body and if done correctly, does not inflict stress on the legs, ankles, feet or spine the way running or jogging does. Walking is an appropriate exercise for everyone who can get up and move about. The secret of gaining maximum benefit from walking is that it be done consistantly and correctly.
Walking from the chair in front of the TV or computer to the refrigerator or the car is not what I mean by walking. Walking is an activity for your whole body, not just your legs and it can be more than mere locomotion. The first consideration before starting out on your walk should be your clothing and shoes. Wear loose fitting clothing apropriate for the weather and correct-fitting and comfortable shoes. (If you are unsure about your shoes, bring the ones you want to wear to your next office visit and we can help you evaluate them) Walking should be a relaxed, natural experience. Leave your Ipod or headset at home. The benefits of walking are greatly reduced when the brain is forced to concentrate on intrusive sounds. These appliances distract you from traffic, obstacles in your pathway, or stepping off a curb.
Take comfortable-length strides-do not lengthen or shorten your stride to match another person's. Walk tall. Be relaxed, hold your head high, keep your shoulders back, and your back straight. Begin slowly and increase your speed and distance gradually to suit your level of stamina. Your arms should be allowed to swing freely at your sides. More benefit is gained from walking when you are not carrying anything or resting your hands in your pockets. When your arms swing freely at your sides the internal communication that keeps your body functioning properly is improved. As your right arm swings forward when you step out with your left foot, and vice versa, your arms act as a natural balancing device for your body. This "opposite arm and leg" action is termed contralateral movement. Contralateral exercise helps to re-time and re-balance your body and improve internal body communication. Dangling arms and a shuffling gait can indicate impaired body communication that can lead to both diminished nerve response and disease. Walking upright with contralateral movement is a natural progression from the cross-crawl motion we learn as infants.
Walking is an invigorating exercise that is stimulating but not stressful to the body's natural rhythm. Brisk walking relaxes and tones the lower back muscles that are associated with the diaphram. This mild but effective form of exercise promotes proper function of the lungs, stomach, cardiovascular and elimination systems and improves the circulation that tranports oxygen to all parts of the body INCLUDING YOUR BRAIN!
Exercise can be a dynamic force for creative thinking or just sorting things out. Wlaking has been called "meditation in motion". By following a few simple guidelines, you won't stress your body or "overdo" by walking. It is social so you can walk with others and carry on a conversation while walking. You should experience no pain from walking and you should not feel excessively fatigued or tired after walking. So park farther away from the store door, take a constitutional after or before dinner, grab your honey and stroll the neighborhood, any excuse to treat yourself to a relaxing, toning, and enjoyable walk.