Walking for Health
Around 400 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates said, “walking is man’s best medicine.”
Recently, I taught a 90-minute exercise class to high schoolers. Between the yoga stretches and core workouts, I led them in a 20-minute walk outside. One of the school staffers saw us and commented that my pace was much brisker than that of the kids.
Naturally. Because in addition to walking meditation, I try to do long(er) hikes several times a week. When I travel, it’s not unusual for me to cover ten miles a day, on my own two feet.
As the teens cooled down from their sluggish rounds, we talked about the many benefits of walking. Each one contributed an excellent aspect of why we should go out and stroll, speed-walk, or jog frequently.
Our bodies are made to roam around without the aid of vehicles, wagons, or even animals. What’s more, it contributes to our overall well-being. For the meditative benefits of walking, read my prior two posts. Since I designed my own Dem Bones therapeutic workshops, the following pointers are all related to walking for bone health.
Walking for Dem Bones
- Both calcium and Vitamin D are essential to ward off osteoporosis and reduce risk of fractures. Higher levels of Vitamin D enable our bodies to better absorb calcium. Being outdoors, with bare arms and legs, gives us ample Vitamin D direct from Mother Nature.
- Ann Richards wrote a book about her response to bone loss. In “I’m Not Slowing Down” (featured in my IGTV and FB Live chat from November 2021) she mentions her three-mile-a-day walks with friends as part of her treatment plan. Brisk walking, in particular, gives the bones and joints a safe amount of impact to boost bone regeneration. Periodic sprinting is even better, or wear ankle weights, or carry lightweight dumbbells to contribute to greater stress and weight-bearing.
- I don’t like tracks or pavement. I’m more mindful when I feel the unevenness of the ground underneath. For example, when I walk on sand or on rocky paths I am aware of how the inner workings of my feet and ankles must respond —carefully — with every step. Plus, when we are not on a smooth surface we improve our balance and coordination which are critical. Falls, often from loss of balance, can be serious for individuals with low bone density. Speaking of which, there are many other forms of exercise that are better for building bone mass or muscle. However, anyone with osteoporosis or osteopenia needs to veer away from sports which can lead to greater injury. For example, ice skating or cross-country biking may be great, but the likelihood of major falls and fractures associated with them is much significantly more than walking with good shoes and a walking stick.
- Walking is great for arthritis. One of the best tips for people living with osteoarthritis is to keep moving. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Walking is one of the most important things you can do if you have arthritis. Walking for 30 to 60 minutes every day can bring you all sorts of health benefits, from keeping your heart in good shape to making sure your bones stay strong.”
- Excess weight aggravates arthritis. Especially in the knee and hip. Walking is one of the best exercises that is accessible and comfortable for most people including those that are lugging around some extra pounds.
- It’s not just about the bones. Our bones are nourished and protected by muscle. The more muscle, the more bone. A natural byproduct of aging is losing muscle mass. And, a non-natural sedentary lifestyle will speed up the loss of muscle and bone.
So get up. Put on your favorite sneakers or hiking boots. Go outside. Walk. Walk. Walk. The longer and faster the better. And check out my YouTube channel and website for more information on bone health and my Dem Bones workshops.