It’s that time of year again when everyone is out perusing the mall, trying to find the perfect present for that special someone. If you are lucky, the perfect gift will be displayed in the window of the first store you visit. If you aren’t so lucky, it might take a couple of hours to find that right gift and eventually you might begin to feel pressure and tightness in your low back. If you’ve experienced this before, you are not alone. In fact, a new study done by Gallup-Healthways indicates that more than a third of people who are in their mid-50s and up have some sort of ongoing neck or back pain. We can avoid shopping at the mall by searching Google for that perfect gift, but what about the other activities we love to do? Do we just stop walking the dog because of mild, persistent back pain?
My answer is no, of course. You shouldn’t have to give up the activities/sports you love! In fact, I’d say to pick it up and try to walk faster! Yes, faster! Walking speed has been shown to affect your spine and the varying loads (pressure) placed on it. While you stroll or walk slowly, more load is placed on your spine. Strolling reduces spinal motion and increases loading on your back. Interestingly enough, fast walking with the arms swinging –a very important component-, results in less spinal loading and reduced stress on the back.
The next time you decide to stroll the mall, try picking up your speed. Fast walking will activate your muscles and share the load placed on your joints, especially the load on your back. Again, swinging your arms is an important part of this equation, as arm swinging conserves energy by reducing torso rotation, and the pressure on the spine. It’s a win-win situation for both your body and the time you spend Holiday shopping!
Enjoy this quick walking technique you can easily master with practice.
Walking Exercise 101: Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees. Swing them back and forth from your shoulders (not from your elbow) as you walk. Your arms should move in sync with your feet. Land heel first with each step you take. Roll through the foot and push off with your toes. If you can hear yourself landing, you are pounding the payment too hard. Try lightening up your step and roll smoothly through your foot.
If you are concerned that your walking pattern (gait) is exasperating your low back, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Reference: McGill, Stuart. Low Back Disorders.