Walking Can Help Back Pain
That which is used develops; that which is not used wastes away – Hippocrates
95 per cent of people will suffer from back pain at some time in their lives. ‘Oh, if only I could do something for my aching back,’ must be one of the most common medical complaints. Fitness walking can provide relief for many people suffering from back pain.
‘Taking a walk regularly is one of the best things you can do for your back. It promotes muscular development, increases circulation, and speeds the release of endorphins which provide a natural ‘high’, says Dr John Regan, a surgeon at Texas Back Institute. He goes on to say that: ‘Walking also lacks the jarring impact associated with many other forms of exercise.’
Yoga teaches us that old age comes with the stiffening of the backbone; and it is this stiffening that causes loss of flexibility in the back and joints, and also affects the roots of the spinal nerves, affecting other functions of the body – circulation, digestion and respiration. For the spine to be healthy it needs to be supple, and for this it must have exercise otherwise it receives less blood – which means less nourishment. Wastes are not carried away; muscles and nerves are affected; tiredness and ill-health ensue. Fitness walking can provide the exercise needed to help keep the back and joints flexible.
Our sedentary lifestyles and bad posture can lead to lower back pain, and sitting for long periods of time can cause a shortening of certain postural muscles. Many lower back injuries are caused by jogging (where the feet strike the ground with 3-4 times body weight) and dance aerobics (where the feet strike the ground with 4-5 times body weight). Fitness walking provides an ideal programme of exercise which can be built up gradually to give mobility to the back. It will also help those who have suffered an injury to their back (remember that fitness walkers’ feet only strike the ground with 1-1.5 times their body weight). And it will help those who have been inactive for a long time and wish to start a moderate fitness programme.
Fitness walking strengthens the muscles in the pelvis and lower back. If you have a back problem, you may actually feel better walking than sitting, as the forward movement of the body reduces the force of gravity on your back. Sitting and standing can both put more strain on the spine than walking. If you sit for long, your body weight is unevenly distributed onto the lower back and hips. People who spend a lot of time driving a car may suffer similar problems. Just as it is important to get up from a chair at regular intervals and go for a walk, so it is for drivers to stop regularly to stretch their legs and go for a walk.
It is important to emphasise that to develop mobility in the back a programme of fitness walking and stretching exercises is necesssary. It is total fitness which strenghten the back muscles and helps to alleviate aches and pains.
If you have a serious back problem, consult your doctor before starting out on a fitness walking and exercise programme.