Summary of articles: by Barbara Loomis, LMT, RES
1. Walking for good health
How to Walk
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What benefits do you receive from walking in alignment?
A. improved bone density
B. pelvic floor health
C. mental health
D. cardiovascular health
E. digestive health
F. lymphatic flow
G. all of the above
If you answered G you are correct. You may say, “wow all I need to do is walk?” It’s not enough to walk, you need to walk in ALIGNMENT. The way your body was designed to be used.
This poor guy above is landing on a bent knee and he’s falling instead of walking upright. Even though he’s not walking in alignment it’s pretty impressive given he doesn’t have feet. Unfortunately, he will probably end up with all sorts of other problems including pelvic floor issues and flat butt syndrome.
Above is a crosswalk sign in Holland. It’s great that she is landing on a straight leg, but too bad she is wearing positive heeled shoes.
Below you will find some tips on walking in alignment. To that list, you can add posterior push off. To accomplish the posterior push off imagine your leg is like an oar moving through water to move you forward. You should feel it in your glutes. This will prevent flat butt syndrome and it will benefit your pelvic floor. Also, feet should be pelvis width apart (not hip). So, if you were to drop a plumb line from your ASIS it should fall mid point through the knee and ankle. This is something I need to work on. (I probably shouldn’t be so smug). Have someone take a picture or video of you while you are walking, you will learn a lot.
Bone density- If your skeleton is in the correct position you are using your full body weight for the weight bearing that is required for maximum bone density. If you are leaning forward while walking and not stacked in the vertical plane, your bones register your weight as less than what you actually weigh, and you are creating stress in the joints with every step you take. Five Things You (probably) Didn’t Know About Osteoporosis.
Pelvic floor- When you walk in alignment with a posterior push off (using your glutes to move you forward) you pull the sacrum back to create optimal length of the pelvic floor.
Mental health- Has anyone ever gone for a walk and felt worse afterwards? Not that I know of. Walking clears the mind, improves circulation and can bring you into the present moment.
Cardiovascular System- When our bones are aligned our muscles are at their correct length. When our muscles are at their correct length, our heart doesn’t have to work as hard to force blood through tight muscles. When we walk in alignment we increase our blood flow to all areas of the body. This does not mean high intensity exercise is better, you don’t have to workout your heart to make it stronger. “What the heck are you talking about lady? But I’ve been told…” Be happy, you don’t have to go out running for heart health! Yeah, all the non runners rejoice! Confused by the misinformation out there? Read Katy Bowman’s cardiovascular post here. My fellow Restorative Exercise™ colleague and health and fitness specialist, April Graham wrote an article titled “Born to Run?“- check it out.
Digestion- Our spleen, liver and stomach meridians run along our legs, when we walk after a meal we aid the flow to these organs. If we sit with a tucked tailbone and shoulders rounded forward we increase pressure in the abdominal cavity. Cramped quarters leads to bloating, gas and constipation. Read my Alignment and Digestion post here.
Lymph System- The lymphatic system is our major line of defense against invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Restriction of lymph flow allows debris to accumulate, and tissues become acidic and burdened with toxic wastes. The lymph system is without a pump so it relies on the musculoskeletal system to “milk” the lymph through the body. The reciprocal arm swing helps to move the lymph around the breasts. The breasts have a high concentration of lymph nodes. For the health of the breasts and the rest of the body, it is important to keep the lymphatic system flowing. Muscle movement plays a huge role in optimal lymph flow. Read my breast health post here.
I went for a hour walk downtown the other day and passed hundreds of people. I set out to count how many people were walking with a reciprocal arm swing with elbow pits and thumbs forward…I saw ONE! I was so excited when I saw her, I wanted to give her a high-five, but thought that would scare her, so I just smiled. So, if you see me walking in Portland and I’m doing the arm swing correctly, give me a high-five. Or better yet, give me a nod while keeping your ears aligned over your shoulders (don’t forget the smug look); that will be the secret alignment nerd greeting.
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