As we all continue to observe the COVID-19 curfew, a sedentary lifestyle is inevitable for many individuals. Even if you are making a conscious effort to get up and move a little bit throughout the day, it may not account for the lack of total movement you typically do in a normal day. This relative lack of activity can have many negative consequences, including preventing our immune system from performing at an optimal level.
Fortunately, there is one activity that not only boosts our immune system, but also enhances our cardiovascular and pulmonary performance, lowers blood sugar, and promotes fat-loss: walking.
The Benefits of Walking
Walking is a natural movement. Just like breathing, we can go most of our lives without ever thinking about it. However, this also means that many of us are not paying attention to what our body is actually doing throughout the walking cycle.
Making the Most of Your Walk
At HNH Fitness, observing a patient’s walking pattern, even for a couple of seconds, can tell us an entire story. It can tell us whether someone is favoring one leg versus the other or is in pain. It can tell us if certain muscles are weak or tight, or if someone is not allowing his/her lungs to fill properly because of slouched posture and poor form.
As you begin walking for exercise, pay attention to your walking habits. Try to implement some of these helpful tips to make the most out of your walk.
Proper Body Mechanics:
- Stand up tall, elongating your spine.
- Draw your shoulders back, avoiding excessive rounding of your mid-back.
- Gently tuck your chin to place your head in line with your spine.
- Keep your stomach tight by drawing your belly button in toward your spine.
- Toes and feet should point forward.
- Increase your stride by taking bigger steps and picking up your feet.
- As your foot comes forward, make sure your heel strikes the ground first, initiating a smooth heel-toe rocking pattern.
- Arms and hands should be relaxed at your sides, with the thumb-side of your hand pointing forward.
- Allow your arms to naturally swing as you walk.
- Walk at a comfortable pace; you should not feel like any part of your body is out of control.
- If possible, sustain a brisk, consistent pace.
Proper Footwear and Daily Recommendations
- Wear walking or running sneakers, preferably less than 6 months old.
- If possible, alternate pairs of sneakers throughout the week.
- Alternate between walking a longer distance one day, then shorter distance the next.
- Plan 1 to 2 rest or recovery days per week.
A Word of Caution
Because our healthcare system is focusing virtually all of its attention on combating COVID-19, now is not the time to push yourself too hard. If you are not a runner, do not begin running five miles per day. If you rarely walk longer than 5 to 10 minutes at a time, do not begin walking for 1-hour increments multiple times per day. Eventually, you may be able to progress to a long-distance walking program. However, now is the time to be honest with yourself, avoiding overuse injuries at all costs.
Exercising is much more effective if you are able to sustain a consistent dose throughout the entire year, as opposed to sustaining an injury because of two weeks of intense training.
Stay well, stay safe, and happy walking!
Christopher J. Cordero, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist and board-certified specialist in orthopedic physical therapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Dr. Cordero practices at HNH Fitness and also runs the Sports Performance Academy, training athletes of all ages with a focus on implementing evidence-based injury prevention techniques and developing proper body mechanics. Dr. Cordero finds passion in the clinical and educational aspects of physical therapy, using manual orthopedic techniques and exercise to help patients regain function in their lives.
Dr. Cordero can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Call to schedule an appointment at 201-265-1076.
HNH Fitness | 514 Kinderkamack Road | Oradell, NJ | 07649