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5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Walks

5-walking-tips

As the weather turns warmer in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s a great time to go outside and do some weight-bearing activities.

One of the simplest, most effective, and enjoyable bone-building exercises this time of year is walking. A brisk walk not only gets your circulation going and your lungs full of fresh air, it also exposes your skin to bone-healthy sunlight. And of course, walking helps build your bones because it’s a weight-bearing exercise.

There are, however, different types of walking. A relaxing stroll is certainly a fine way to get moving and spend some time outdoors. But there are easy ways to get more bone health benefits out of your walking time.

So today, I’ll share with you five simple tips to make the most of your walks and I’ll explain why you should avoid as much as possible sitting for long periods of time.

Why Weight-Bearing?

In the Save Our Bones Program, I recommend walking and other weight-bearing exercises, because they work against gravity…actually, you could say they work with gravity, because weight-bearing exercises make use of the earth’s gravitational pull to build strong bones.

You see, bones respond to force – the action of muscles and gravity on the skeleton. As I write in Densercise, the only exercise program specifically designed to increase bone density:

“Exercise stimulates bone growth by increasing osteoblast activity, endogenous electrical activity, serum osteocalcin levels and it even stimulates the pituitary gland to increase growth hormone production.”1

Why Walking?

Walking is certainly not the only weight-bearing exercise there is; Densercise is chock-full of various moves that build your bones. But I am emphasizing walking today for several reasons:

  • Walking gets you outdoors where you can reap the benefits of sunshine and fresh air.
  • It’s a good opportunity to practice good posture and improve it.
  • It’s easy to take go out for a walk – no special equipment is required except a good pair of walking shoes. It can be done just about anywhere.
  • Perhaps most importantly, walking is the antidote to constant sitting, which is becoming more and more of a health problem.

Don’t Just Sit There – Your Health Depends on It

With so many of us working desk jobs and spending large amounts of time in front of various screens—from computers to television to video games—a new health concern has arisen: too much sitting.

For most of human history, sitting down was just not done for long periods of time. People were moving constantly, hunting, gathering, and later, farming. Comfy, soft furniture was not even heard of until more modern eras; people squatted or knelt around fires and during meals. Even up to the last 100 years or so, before television and computers, men and women worked with their hands and moved most of the time. Sitting or lying down all day would have been a sign of illness…and in a way, it still is.

Sitting Can Shorten Your Life

Sitting in modern times is not a sign of acute illness so much as it is a harbinger of health issues, including increased mortality rates. Studies have linked too much sitting to a host of health problems, from cardiovascular disease to obesity. (Note – while weight-bearing exercise is good for your bones, being overweight is not.) Most disturbing, sitting has been linked to early death.

In an Australian study, researchers studied the effects of prolonged sitting on individuals over the age of 45. After adjusting for variables such as gender, level of physical activity, and whether or not the participants smoked, the scientists concluded that:

“Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality… Public health programs should focus on reducing sitting time in addition to increasing physical activity levels.”2

Adults fare no better in the US. According to a 2010 study, excessive sitting was once again shown to shorten lifespans:

“The time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality,” the study concludes. “Public health messages should include both being physically active and reducing time spent sitting.”3

“Sitting is the New Smoking”

The results of the Australian and US studies, and other similar data, led Dr. Anup Kanodia of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center to declare that “sitting is the new smoking.” The health problems brought on by sitting more than half the day are actually more lethal than cigarette smoking. Researchers in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine compared sitting and watching TV to smoking, and concluded that for every hour of television you watch, your lifespan decreases by 22 minutes, whereas smoking has been shown to decrease your lifespan by 11 minutes per cigarette.4

This is certainly a cause for concern, plus…

Sitting isn’t Good for Your Bones

When you’re sitting down, you are often in a position of poor posture, such as hunched over a computer keyboard or slouched on the couch. And sitting is the opposite of weight-bearing activities; your bones aren’t getting any stimulation to grow and increase in density.

I really hope that by now you’re practicing my water trick to prevent long periods of uninterrupted sitting. But that’s not enough to keep your bones strong, so…

Let’s Go For a Walk!

Thankfully, the rather scary risks associated with excessive sitting have a simple solution: regular physical activity. And walking is an excellent remedy for the sit-down epidemic.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Walk

As I mentioned earlier, there are five simple actions you can take to increase the bone health benefits of your walks. It seems that we have less and less time these days, so these tips are designed to help you make the most of your time spent walking.

Tip #1: Use the “Talking Test”

One of the best things about walking is that you can do it with a friend. But if you find that you’re chatting more than breathing, you need to increase your pace. You can still chat, but make sure that between your words you’re breathing audibly. Your pace should be fast enough that talking and breathing is not impossible, but it’s a bit challenging.

Tip #2: Walk on a Variety of Terrains

If you walk on one street all the time, and you’re always on the left side of the road (this is so in America – in other countries, walking on the right it advised), then your right foot is higher. This has to do with the way streets are paved to allow for water run-off. So try to add variety: head for a trail in the woods or a walking path or track. Hiking is a good option, too, because the terrain is usually varied over hills and slopes.

Another way to vary your walk is to add in some stair-stepping exercises if you happen to pass a stairway, or you can include a short, steep hill for variety.

Tip #3: Practice Correct Posture

As “Savers” are aware, loss of height and poor posture are concerns among the osteoporosis community. When you walk, take the opportunity to “train” your body to have the best possible posture. Tuck in your tummy and your rear, and hold your shoulders back comfortably. Look up and forward as much as possible, and envision your spine being stretched upward from the top of your head.

Tip #4: Take Multiple Short Walks

Most of us cannot spend hours at a time walking. But if you break your walking sessions up into 2 to 4 15-minute sessions, at the very least you’ll get the 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise, and more importantly, you’ll break up a prolonged sitting pattern. By taking multiple short walks through the day, you give your body a break and your bones some much-needed stimulation.

Tip #5: Warm-Up First and Start Slowly

Before you start your walk it’s a good idea to practice some warm-up exercises for just a few minutes. Also, during the first two or three minutes of your walk, start at a slower pace, and then gradually pick up the speed, trying to maintain it for the rest of your walk.

Enjoy the fresh air!

References

1 Moffat, Marilyn, Elaine Rosen, and Sandra Rusnak-Smith. “Musculoskeletal Essentials: Applying The Preferred Physical Therapist Practice Patterns.” Essentials in Physical Therapy series. Slack Health Care Books and Journals. Thorofare, NJ. 2006
2 van der Ploeg, H.P, et al. “Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222 497 Autralian adults.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012 March 26; 172(6):494-500. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22450936
3 Patel, Alpa V., et al. “Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults.” American Journal of Epidemilogy. April 29, 2010. Vol. 172, Issue 4 > pp 419-429. Web. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/172/4/419.abstract
4 Veerman, J. Lennert, et al. “Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis.” British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012; 46:927-930 doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2011-085662. Web. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/46/13/927.abstract

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23 comments. Leave Yours Now →

  1. Dawn Andrews August 16, 2013, 9:28 am

    I am wondering is coral calcium (sold at health food stores)the same as algae calcium that you recommend?
    Thanks for your advice

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 20, 2013, 2:34 pm

      Dawn, coral calcium is actually an inorganic form of this mineral, even though it’s made by living organisms. :)

  2. Leslie (Ms. L. Carmel) June 15, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Hi! Vivian,

    Thank You VERY MUCH For This Very Interesting Article! I Walk A Lot At My Volunteer Job. I Volunteer At A Senior Home, And Health And Aging Center! I
    LOVE MY VOLUNTEER WORK THERE!

    IN THE MORNING I SORT AND DELIVER MAIL TO ALL THE RESIDENCE THAT LIVE THERE. AFTER THAT, I HELP OUT IN THE ADULT DAYCARE PROGRAM THEY HAVE THERE.
    A PLACE WHERE ELDERLY PEOPLE CAN TAKE THEIR SPOUSES, THAT NEED A PLACE TO STAY FOR THE DAY, THAT CAN’T BE BY THEMSELVES, Or WHERE AN ADULT CHILD CAN TAKE ONE OR BOTH THEIR PARENTS, THAT CAN’T FEND FOR THEMSELVES ANYMORE, TO BE ABLE TO BE WITH OTHERS LIKE THEM. WITH A LOT OF PLANNED ACTIVITIES TO DO THROUGHOUT THE DAY, UNTIL THEY ARE PICK UP AND TAKEN BACK HOME.
    AFTER LUNCH, I VISIT WITH THE RESIDENTS THERE; THEN HELP OUT IN THE ALZHEIMER’S, (OR WHAT WE CALL THE MEMORY-CARE UNIT). THEY ALSO HAVE PLANNED ACTIVITIES TO DO! AND I HELP SOME OF THEM OUT!
    AFTER THAT IF THERE IS ANY TIME LEFT BEFORE I LEAVE IN THE LATE AFTERNOON. I GO BACK TO THE ADULT DAYCARE PROGRAM, WHERE WE PLAY TRIVIA WITH THE DAYCARE PEOPLE, HELP THEM PAINT, HELP THEM PUT JIGSAW PUZZLES TOGETHER, WALK OUTSIDE AND FEED THE TURTLES AND FISH IN THE LAKE, ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BUILDING, PLUS A LOT MORE! I REALLY LOVE IT THERE!

    THAT’S IT FOR NOW. TAKE CARE, AND STAY WELL!

    LOVE, LESLIE (MS. L. CARMEL)

  3. ELSIE June 14, 2013, 1:47 am

    Zaaz Machine 20 K WHole Body Vibration I do 12 minutes standing and 12 is that ok. I also walk and do not drive so use public transportation .

  4. shula June 13, 2013, 11:18 pm

    Thanks,

    Shula

  5. percy June 13, 2013, 5:37 pm

    what is your take on candida in relation to osteoporosis? thanks.

  6. Joel M. Wilson June 13, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Walking is wonderful. I currently can do two miles in under 24 minutes, outside of the warm-up and cool-down minutes on my treadmill. I also do push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping-jacks. I bring apples, oranges, baby carrots, grapes, tomatoes, and such to work for lunch and breaks, and stay away from that vending machine garbage. I also try to walk a few laps around the parking lot during lunch break after eating. (I have a desk job). My body mass index is 21.5, so it all does pay off. After you read this email, turn off your computer and go outside for a walk!

  7. Janet June 13, 2013, 1:22 pm

    I wish the offer would be for a hard copy book and dvd. I don’t care to watch or read longer than a few minutes from my computer. My computer is at work, not at home, so I can’t spend as much time on it.

  8. abimanyu ramma June 13, 2013, 1:11 pm

    i do go to sea side walk for 30 minutes and swim for 20 minutes i have notice that it increase my in helping bones and also increas respitory. level.
    you can publice no restriction SIR.
    ABIMANYU RAMMA.
    REPUBLIC OF MAURITIUS.
    40, BELLE RODE, ROSE HILL.
    MAURITIUS ISLAND.

  9. Sharon June 13, 2013, 11:43 am

    Please put your Densercise program on DVD for us to buy. My computer is in a place that is NOT conducive to exercising.

  10. Alice June 13, 2013, 10:50 am

    I am gluten sensitive and have osteoporosis. I have been reading that gluten sensitivities can worsen osteoporosis. Do you have information on this correlation?

  11. Ada June 13, 2013, 10:21 am

    hello Vivian, in Densercise you recommend to do it on alternate days, is it fine if I do the densercise every day?

  12. Mary Kay Rudeen June 13, 2013, 9:39 am

    Want to ask this community of followers this question again. I follow Vivian with everything for a number of years and love all the information. Have been dealing with phlegm/acid reflux for 6 months…tried everything natural but nothing has worked. Eat great with the alkaline/acid program. Had endoscopy and they found a sm hiatal hernia. Would not go on any of those pills. Seeing chiropractor now to see if he can help. Anybody out there have this problem. Has anyone tried a probiotic for acid reflux? Thanks!

  13. betty June 13, 2013, 9:20 am

    Thanks again. I think though that when they say every hour of sitting shaves off 22 minutes of your life, that this can’t be right. We all need to take breaks, attend sit down functions, do our deskwork etc etc. Perhaps it is the way it is stated but it implies that whenever we sit we’re contributing to a shorter life span.

    • lynda June 14, 2013, 7:00 am

      Yes,I agree, it does rather. I have a saddle stool which I use for computter work … it’s actually a therapists stool. The advantage, I find, is that I can exercise while sitting on it, by puhing down alternatively on my feet which results in a walking motion …. start simply by transfering your body weight from one side of your bum to the other …. it’s based on Feldenkrais.I found it on utube, although the demonstration was of someone sitting astride a large roller.

  14. Terry June 13, 2013, 8:47 am

    Love walking… although here in the south I have to get out really early before the sun gets brutal. Shoes are really important and paying attention to your feet, also. I ended up with plantar factitious by pushing myself to hard. Still, there is no replacing a nice get together with nature!! Thanks for being on top of this!!

  15. Jackie June 13, 2013, 8:15 am

    Nordic Pole Walking is more effective than just walking – uses your upper body as well as lower body, 90% of your muscles are engaged, and it’s better for your posture. A much better work out, and easier on lower joints for those with joint issues. It’s for ages and all abilities!

  16. ita June 13, 2013, 7:34 am

    Thank you , Ita.

  17. Leena June 13, 2013, 4:12 am

    Up here in Finland people use walking poles (‘Nordic walking poles’ look like ski poles with rubber tips underneath ).

    They help with the right posture and ease pressure on knees / joints.

    The upper body, shoulders and arms get good exercise too.

    I really appreciated your ‘densercise’ program and how it targets all the right places, thanks !

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 13, 2013, 8:32 am

      That sounds interesting about the walking poles, Leena – and it makes sense! And I am glad to hear that you are enjoying Densercise. :)

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