My father likes to tell me stories of when he was a boy and had to walk miles to school, barefoot, in the snow — uphill both ways. I’m skeptical about the truth of these stories, but there is one thing I am sure of: Our society has become more and more sedentary.
We rarely walk anywhere when we can drive, even when our destination is just around the corner. I am often asked, “What is the best exercise I could be doing?” The answer, almost invariably, is walking.
From a spinal biodynamic point of view, walking allows a unique “nodding” action of the sacrum, a triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine. This movement actively pumps cerebrospinal fluid up around the spinal cord and brain. Since the brain and nervous system need cerebrospinal fluid for cushioning and nutrients, walking is one of the best ways to keep your brain sharp and healthy.
Everyone can benefit from walking, expectant mothers and arthritic and osteoporotic people in particular.
Walking is very healthy for pregnant women. The activity circulates oxygenated blood throughout the mother’s body and her baby’s. The pelvis is shifting and the joints are widening and softening. A moderate walking schedule can help mothers-to-be body adjust to these changes, while keeping the heart, lungs and muscles healthy. As one experienced mother told me, “Giving birth is like the biggest marathon of your life. You’d better start training for it now!”
People with arthritis also see positive results from walking. You may have heard the expression, “move it or lose it.” There is no actual blood flow between joint surfaces in the knees and other synovial joints. Although it may feel stiff or painful to initiate movement, even walking, the pumping action such movements trigger is the only means joints have for removing dead cells and metabolic waste and replacing it with nutrients. Begin by walking just a few minutes a day, adding more time as your joints become better able to handle the stress of your bodyweight and exercise.
The absolute best way to help your bones retain, and even replace, calcium is through weight-bearing exercise, so it’s crucial that people with osteoporosis incorporate walking into their routine.
Consider this: One of the biggest health concerns astronauts face when they are launched into space is osteoporosis. In a zero-gravity environment, the body starts removing minerals from the bones. The human body is so efficient that when it senses bones no longer need to be as strong, it reroutes calcium to muscles and other areas of the body, what seems like a better use of resources.
The best way to tell your body you DO need beefy, strong bones is to stress them with weight. Those with osteoporosis can benefit from working out with light hand weights. But one of the safest ways to stress the bones is — you guessed it — walking.