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Walking is (almost) the silver bullet!

Most people will get some low back discomfort at some point in their lives, and most people will get this discomfort because they are not able to keep the low back and pelvis joints stable enough to deal with what life throws at them – and this could be prolonged sitting, lifting, sport, slips and trips, obesity, hip arthritis, whatever.

Having previously made the case for Spine Hygiene, a spine friendly morning routine, learning to breath and learning to use your flexible ribs, we are upping the anti with something approaching exercise – but without the need to break a sweat or to get down onto the floor – all that comes next week, and only if it is appropriate for you. 

So the foundations of movement, breathing and bracing are laid, and now we can think about developing some endurance in the muscles that keep us safe, as well as strengthen ligaments and fascia that attach and bind everything together. We need a way to do this that is unlikely to cause harm, is not unpleasant to do, is readily accessible and not too time consuming, is cheap and does not rely on specialist equipment. 

Walking fits the bill perfectly, and it needs to be walking with purpose. This is not about step count only. under normal circumstances I get about 6000 steps a day around my treatment table, but this is about quality, not quantity. Compare the paint on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel with that of Nursling B&Q, or canals in Venice with those in Birmingham. With walking, compare soldiers marching and Nordic walkers, with an afternoon mooching around any shopping centre (delightful as that undoubtedly is). Soldiers and Nordic Walkers move with purpose, with heads high and bodies upright and their arms move rhythmically with their legs. Shoppers…..don’t.

Imagine a huge diagonal strap running from the back of your left shoulder to the back of your right hip. When this strap is pulled tight by swinging your left arm and your right leg forwards at the same time, it supports and stabilises your low back and your pelvis. You have the same arrangement from right shoulder to left hip, tightened by swinging right arm and left hip forwards. The straps cross each other in the small of your back, supporting and stabilising the lumbopelvis. The straps are called the Posterior Oblique Slings and are composed of the Latissimus and GlutMax muscles, and the ThoracoLumbar Fascia. When we tense them by rhythmically and alternately moving our legs and arms, we call it Walking!  If we don’t move our arms or legs enough (and this sounds a bit like ambling around the shopping centre) the whole system falls apart. As an added bonus, each Sling stores energy when we stretch it, and then uses that energy to ping us forwards into the next stride.  Humans are therefore, among the most efficient walkers in terms of energy expenditure per unit of body mass per metre moved, on the planet. We really are not fast, but we move really economically, and it is because of the Posterior Oblique Sling system.

So – if you are looking for a brilliant, cheap, available, feel-good, back-healthy exercise that doesn’t need any specialist gym gear then go outside, hold your head up, allow your arms to swing and go for a purposeful walk!