Spring is soon approaching the Northern Hemisphere, and I’m sure everyone is eager to get outside. A great way to enjoy the outdoors and build your bones is to go for a walk. In fact, walking is recommended in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program as a bone-healthy, weight-bearing exercise that makes an excellent baseline for targeted bone density exercises.
But you may not know that there’s a difference between walking to improve your bone health or just taking a casual stroll. So today I’m going to share with you how to get the most out of your bone-building walks by avoiding nine common mistakes.
I’d like to start with a very basic premise: setting goals.
1. Not Challenging Yourself
Walking is certainly fun and pleasurable, and that’s one of the healthy things about it. After all, regular exercise is a key factor in improving mood, especially when it’s done outdoors in mood-boosting sunshine. Still, it pays to take your walks seriously by setting goals and challenging yourself.
For example, do you know how many minutes it takes you to walk a mile? Make it a goal to find out! Then challenge yourself to improve your time.
Another way to increase the challenge level of your walks is to include hills and obstacles, as in the next tip.
2. Staying On Flat Ground
In Florida where I live, most of the roads and walking areas are flat. But there are plenty of curbs, steps, and other variations along the way if I watch for them.
So when you take your walks, rather than avoiding hills and climbs, seek them out. Step on and off the curb, go ahead and climb that hill or slope, and hop up and down steps. These “extras” engage the muscles of the buttocks and legs more closely, and challenge your ankle, knee, and hip joints. Walking up and down hills in particular helps stretch muscles as well, especially the quads at the top of the thigh and the calf muscles.
3. Wearing Heavy Clothing
When spring is just beginning, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s tempting to pile on thick layers topped off with a heavy coat. While layers are good, thick ones can be a mistake. For one thing, a thick coat is nearly impossible to tie around your waist. In addition, too-thick clothing can make you hot and sweaty before your walk is through, cutting your walking time short.
The answer to this dilemma? Dress in several light layers – such as a sleeveless shirt, tee shirt, and long-sleeved shirt – and step outside before you start your walk. If you feel a bit chilly after standing outside for a few minutes, then you’ve got the right amount of clothing on. You’ll warm up as you walk, but not too quickly; and you can shed the top layer if necessary.
There is another reason not to get too cozy before walking – walking in chilly air may help burn more fat by stimulating the conversion of unhealthy “white fat” to a type of fat known as “brown/beige fat.” The latter type of fat actually helps burn calories to keep you warm, according to research.1
4. Losing Focus
When I’m out for a walk by myself, my mind tends to wander. That sort of unbridled thought is actually healthy in the right context; but it’s all-too-easy to let your mind wander so much that you forget one of the tasks at hand, which is to foster your mind-body connection in order to improve coordination, which helps prevent falls.
To do this, make it a point to be aware of your body as you walk. Pay attention to your arms, shoulders, and core – elbows should be bent (more on this in a moment), shoulders should be relaxed, and your core engaged.
In addition, consider your breathing. Make sure you’re taking deep, alkalizing breaths at an appropriate pace (about two steps per inhalation and three or four steps per exhalation). This prevents shallow breathing, promotes body alkalinity, and also causes you to pay attention to whether or not your breathing is labored or uncomfortable.
5. Not Including The Upper Body
Walking can and should be a whole-body exercise. Of course your legs and lower body are involved, but don’t forget your upper body. As mentioned earlier, your core should be engaged; to do this, lightly pull your belly button inward, making sure it does not interfere with your breathing. Take care not to arch your back forward or lean back too much; these movements stretch and disengage the core muscles. Instead, lean a bit forward at the hips to keep those midriff muscles working.
6. Letting Your Arms “Flop”
If you’re practicing #4 and #5 above, you’re less likely to make this mistake. Nonetheless, to get the most out of your walks, it’s important to ensure that your arms are not flopping about. Instead, move them naturally, with your right arm coming forward at the same time as your left foot steps forward, and vice versa. Bend your elbows at an approximate 90-degree angle, relaxing your shoulders. This also helps tone your arms, and is even more effective if you wear wrist weights.
7. Letting Your Dog Pull On The Leash
It’s so much fun to take your dog along on walks. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why some people choose to get a dog – it motivates them to take several daily walks. The problem is, some dogs rush out ahead of their humans, pulling hard on the leash and upsetting the body coordination described above. The tugging can continue for the whole walk if you let it.
Instead, hold the leash the way dog trainers recommend – place the end of the leash in your right hand, let the leash cross your body and have your dog on your left side. In your left hand, hold the leash about halfway down. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to teach your dog the “heel” command as well, so he or she knows to stay beside your left leg. Take along some healthful dog treats for motivation!
8. Not Varying Your Pace
Instead of keeping up one steady pace, walk at intervals for a more effective workout. For example, try walking at a brisk, fast pace for three minutes followed by three minutes at a slower pace. Repeat these intervals for the entire walk. Try working intervals into your walks at least twice a week.
Research shows that walking in intervals stabilizes blood sugar,2 which is an important and often-overlooked aspect of bone health. A randomized, controlled trial published in The Diabetes Journals concludes that:
“…interval walking is superior to energy expenditure–matched continuous walking for improving physical fitness, body composition, and glycemic control.”2
9. Walking Only Indoors
Using the treadmill at the gym is certainly better than sitting. But what you may not know is that confining your walks to the indoors means you’re losing out on the many benefits of exercising in a natural setting. Seek out a “green” setting for your walks wherever and whenever you can, adding sun exposure and natural surroundings that boost mood and release tension.3
In addition, natural settings are more likely to include obstacles and uneven terrain, giving your muscles an extra workout that’s especially beneficial for ankles, knees, and hips. These are vulnerable areas that need extra stress via targeted exercise in order to build up fracture-preventing bone density.
The hips are of particular concern in the osteoporosis and osteopenia community. Hip fractures can be very painful and slow to heal, and recovery is often incomplete. Recent research offers hope for walkers, and shows that regular walking can actually reduce hip fracture risk.
Study Reveals The Importance Of Walking To Prevent Hip Fracture
Unlike most studies on bone strength, this comprehensive analysis focused on men – almost 36,000 of them – aged 50 to 75 (at the start of the study) over a 24-year period. After controlling for factors such as car accidents and traumatic injury, researchers found that the men who walked for four hours or more per week had a 43 percent lower risk of fracturing their hip due to a fall.4
Interestingly, the men who walked at a brisk pace, as described in #8 above, had an even lower fracture risk of 62 percent. We can logically infer from this study that women can also benefit from walking.
Yet further research also points to the need for targeted exercise in addition to walking for more comprehensive fracture prevention.
Targeted Exercise Augments Regular Walking
Getting the most out of your walks is one way to boost the effectiveness of this enjoyable, weight-bearing activity. But as research has shown, walking alone is simply not enough to build bone density in key areas of the skeleton.
Your bones need the stimulation of targeted stress in order to build and strengthen, which can easily be achieved with the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System. The 52 moves in Densercise™ can be done at home without any special equipment, and many of them can be done outdoors.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
Because Densercise™ takes just 15 minutes a day, three days a week, it’s easy to add it to your regular exercise or walking regimen. Densercise™ is the only exercise program that is specifically designed to improve bone density, and it focuses on key areas like the spine, hips, wrists, and ankles.
With Densercise™ as an addition to your walks, you know that your fitness routine includes everything that’s been scientifically shown to be good for your bones!
Till next time,
1 Kern, Philip A., et al. “The Effects of Temperature and Seasons on Subcutaneous White Adipose Tissue in Humans: Evidence for Thermogenic Gene Induction.” October 9, 2014. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Volume 99, issue 12. Web. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2014-2440
2 Karstoft, Kristian, MD., et al. “The Effects of Free-Living Interval-Walking Training on Glycemic Control, Body Composition, and Physical Fitness in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A randomized, controlled trial.” September 21, 2012. Volume 36, no. 2, pages 228-236. DOI: 10.2337/dc12-0658. Web. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/2/228.full
3 Ryan, Richard M., et al. “Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature.” Journal of Environmental Psychology. November 2009. 30(2010) 159-68. PDF. http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2010_RyanWeinstenEtAl_JEVP.pdf
4 Bassey, Joan E., “Exercise for prevention of osteoporotic fracture.” 2001. Age and Ageing. 30-S4: 29-31. PDF. http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/suppl_4/29.full.pdf