Thomas E. Hyde, DC, DACBSP, CKTP, FCCSS (Hon)
People with ongoing or recurrent episodes of lower back pain should consider the benefits of walking as a low-impact form of exercise. Aerobic exercise has long been shown to reduce the incidence of low back pain. However, people with low back pain often find some forms of exercise too painful to continue, and therefore don't get the exercise they need to maintain good health. Exercise walking is one way to benefit from regular exercise while not aggravating the structures in the lower back.
For some back conditions, walking will aggravate or cause too much pain to be bearable. For these patients, other low-impact exercise may be advisable, especially water therapy (pool therapy such as aqua-jogging or deep water aerobics). The body's buoyancy reduces compression on the lower back, allowing for more pain free movement.
Benefits of Exercise Walking
It has long been known that there are many inherent health benefits from a regular routine of exercise walking, such as:
- Strengthens muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and torso—walking increases the stability of the spine and conditions the muscles that keep the body in the upright position.
- Nourishes the spinal structures—walking for exercise facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into soft tissues and draining toxins.
- Improves flexibility and posture—exercise walking along with regular stretching allows greater range of motion; helps prevent awkward movements and susceptibility of future injury.
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- Strengthens bones and reduces bone density loss—regular walking for exercise helps prevent osteoporosis and can aid in reducing osteoarthritis pain.
- Helps with controlling weight—any regular exercise routine helps maintain a healthy weight, especially as one ages and metabolism slows.
For people with ongoing back pain, balanced and stable walking maintains and enhances one's ability to continue doing everyday activities, while reducing the likelihood and/or severity of additional episodes of back pain.
To realize the full benefits of exercise walking, certain guidelines need to be followed as outlined below.