Back pain is one of the most common afflictions. Every year, up to $200 billion dollars are spent treating back pain. However, one of the most effective treatments for back pain is also free: walking.
While walking may not help all forms of back pain and may not be suitable for every patient, it is an easy way to help heal and prevent back pain. A recent study has found that 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic walking was as effective for low back pain as physical therapy.
How does walking decrease pain?
Walking encompasses nearly every muscle in the body. It also promotes the release of endorphins in the brain. As the brain processes these movements and the surge of endorphins, it is distracted from the sensation of pain. This is called the “Gate Theory of Pain Control”.
How to walk properly?
Before starting a new exercise program, always consult your physician. If you have not exercised in a while, start slowly. As you gain strength, increase the duration of your walks.
Walking does not mean strolling. You should be walking at a speed where singing is difficult. Your heart rate should be slightly elevated.
Two Way to Make Your Walks More Enjoyable
Regular exercise can be difficult to stick with. If you don’t enjoy exercise, try to make walking a habit that you can look forward to.
1. Walking could become a shared experience with you and your friends. In fact, catch up with friends with walking instead of lunch or dinner. Everyday, schedule to walk with a different friend. You can even start a walking group!
2. Listen to podcasts while you walk. Long walks give you a chance to enjoy an audiobook. Make a rule to go on a walk if you want to find out what happens in the next chapter.
One trail I particularly enjoy is the Dry Creek trail in Clovis.
If the weather is bad (like right now) or you prefer to stay indoors, you can still fit in your steps by walking up and down any stairs at home or in your apartment building.
Spice things up by doing a step aerobic workout. Step up and down from the landing to the first step, trying to see how quickly you can go. Mix things up by turning to one side or the other as you step up and down.
Dancing in your living room is another option. Whether it’s free-form movement to your favorite song or waltzing around your living room with a partner, dance does wonders for your physical and mental health. You can burn anywhere from 250 to 500 calories per hour dancing, depending on the style.
Dance can also improve memory, sharpen your focus, and help you pay attention. Just make sure you clear a space that’s big enough for you to move freely.