“Exercise is important, but exercise in a gym is not important. Go and take a walk outside. Skip the umpteenth coffee date and go for a hike instead. Take the stairs. Walk your errands.” – Daphne Oz
Here in Northern California, we live in a culture that has subscribed quite emphatically with the notion that fitness equates with working out and working out with intensity.
Pursuing fitness and an ideal physique is not unique to the state of California, however, but we do have plenty of fitness gyms. In fact, according to one source, as recently as 2019 California was home to the largest number of gyms – 5,123 in total.
And for those who prefer to stay at home and pursue their fitness on their own, there are multitudes of popular online workout programs such as Future, Street Parking, Nike Training Club, JuggernautAI, Power Athlete, and Comptrain.
While working out and subscribing to fitness programs can be effective for many people, there is one fitness activity that is both ancient, incredibly simple, and free. And almost anyone can do it.
And that is walking.
Is Walking Effective for Attaining Fitness?
There was a time when many people recognized, though without quantitative evidence, both the physical and mental health benefits of walking. And, of course, mankind had been walking as a primary means of locomotion for eons.
Then, in 1966, Dr. Kenneth Cooper pioneered the benefits of aerobic exercise for maintaining and improving health. It was in 1966 that he coined the term “aerobics” and published a book two years after titled Aerobics, which emphasized a point system for improving the body’s cardiovascular system.
And one of the four types of exercise he advocated was walking.
It turns out that walking, when done consistently and for at least 30 minutes is an incredibly effective form of exercise.
As one article noted,
“Countless scientific studies have found that this simple act of moving our feet can provide a number of health benefits and help people live longer. In fact, a walking routine — if done properly — might be the only aerobic exercise people need.”
A recent study that analyzed the life expectancy of nearly 475,000 men and women was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Of the study participants, the faster walkers who averaged a speed of 3 miles per hour could expect to live roughly 15 to 20 years longer than slower walkers, or those who only walked at 2 miles per hour.
Participants who walked at a quick pace had an average life expectancy of nearly 87 years for men and 88 years for women, regardless of their weight groups. A quick pace is relative to an individual’s fitness level, but it generally falls somewhere between 3 and 5 miles per hour.
Other benefits include:
- increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness
- reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- stronger bones and improved balance
- increased muscle strength and endurance
- reduced body fat
- improved management of conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and joint and muscular pain or stiffness
Does Walking Help Prevent Muscle and Joint Pain?
Improved aerobic and cardio fitness are just some of the benefits of a regular walking regimen. This most primal of physical activities can help reduce and prevent muscle and joint pain, as well.
Here are some “sound bites” that support this fact:
“Exercise not only reduces pain perception, but also has effects on mental health, such as mood elevation and reduction of stress and depression, which are often associated with chronic pain conditions.” – National Institutes of Health
“In individuals > 50 years old with knee osteoarthritis, walking for exercise was associated with less development of frequent knee pain.” – Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, MD
“Studies have shown walking to be effective in preventing, alleviating and even treating pain in the spine.” – Bruk Ballenger PT, DPT
Neuroscientist Benedict Kolber with Duquesne University in Pittsburgh says exercise may also cause changes in the brain that can make a big difference in damping down pain. “Exercise engages the endogenous opioid system,” he says, “so our bodies make opioids and use these opioids to decrease pain.”
Dr. Kolber also notes that exercise also seems to activate parts of the brain that are involved in decreasing pain. “We get pain signals that are coming from our hands to our spinal cord and up to our brain and then we get these control systems — parts of our brain that seem to be activated in exercise — and that then turns down the pain system.”
While walking is certainly not a cure-all for everything that may ail us, it is definitely a beneficial and easily accessible form of exercise that is often underrated and overlooked.
Especially by those who are encumbered with chronic pain issues.
Treating Chronic Pain Effectively with Pain and Performance Solutions
If you are suffering from recurring or chronic pain, your next step should be to make an appointment with Pain and Performance Solutions.
Whether you’ve been suffering from pain for a long time or have just begun to realize that your pain that is not diminishing or “going away”, give us a call. Effective chronic pain relief can only begin once we gain an in-depth understanding of when and how your pain started.
We will work with you during your first appointment to learn about your present symptoms as well as any history of discomfort.
At Pain and Performance Solutions we specialize in bringing relief from chronic pain with therapies such as the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA™), Active Release Techniques® (ART®), and Anatomy in Motion (AiM). And it all begins once we understand where your pain started. This can often mean that your pain actually started previously with another injury you might have sustained.
A full examination will help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to get you on your road to recovery. Your trust in us is key, as is your honesty. Ultimately, getting your body healthy and working properly is the only way to achieve total recovery.