Dr. Cliff Heinrich
The Importance of Walking as a Safe and Effective Exercise
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
It appears that our bodies are designed to “walk.” Look how as toddlers we have this natural inclination to walk. I believe that walking is one of the healthiest forms of exercise. While walking, we usually do not have to push our bodies to extreme measures. What I mean by this is we usually are not exerting ourselves so much or creating too many demands on the body while walking. Walking involves the swinging of our arms and legs within a moderate range of motion without having to push the limits of our shoulders, hips, and other joints. Also, walking at a moderate pace and distance usually does not stress the heart and lungs (and other systems) as much as sprinting, jumping rope or riding your bike at a hundred miles per hour. I believe that strenuous exercises, such as lifting heavy weights or competing in sports at a professional level could potentially create strains and tension in the body. I feel that these strains from intense exercises could interfere with the natural flow and motion of the body. I also believe that walking is both a low-impact and low-resistance form of exercise that minimizes the chance of injury or strain within the body that offers a multitude of health benefits.
Benefits of walking include the following:
Walking can help you to burn calories. By burning calories, a person may then be able to lose weight or maintain their desired weight.
Walking can reduce your risk for heart disease, by increasing the levels of the “good cholesterol” (HDL) and lowering the levels of “bad cholesterol” (LDL).
Can help to lower your blood sugar. And by talking a 15-minute walk after meals may be of even greater benefit than walking at some other time of the day.
Walking can ease joint pain, by strengthening both the bones and muscles that support the joints. For those individuals who have osteoarthritis (OA), “research shows that people with OA who take more steps every day keep their joints working better than those who stroll less.”
Improve the quality of sleep.
Boost your immune function. A study involving 1000 people that was done during the flu season, showed that those individuals who walked 30-45 minutes a day, had 43% fewer sick days, fewer upper respiratory tract infections, and less symptoms if they became sick, compared to those individuals who were sedentary.
Walking can improve your mood. Natural hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin are released when we exercise. These “happy” hormones can trigger feelings of euphoria and general well-being.
Walking can reduce stress.
Improve your memory.
Reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Improve your skin tone.
Walking may enhance creativity. A study was done on individuals who were trying to think of new ideas while walking and sitting. The researchers found that those who walked around (especially outdoors) had increased creativity (“walking opens up a free flow of ideas”) compared to those that were just sitting.
These are just some of the benefits of walking. If walking may be a challenge for you, maybe with the assistance of a licensed therapist, you could try to walk in a certified pool that meets all the safety standards. Or if you are unable to stand or walk then maybe try gentle exercises such as Tai Chi or Chi Gong while seated. I used to have a patient that would teach Tai Chi to individuals while they were seated.
One last thing I would like to mention is that walking does not require membership fees, a dress code, or exercise machines. So why not speak with your healthcare provider and see if walking is a good option for you?
1) Healthline (https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-walking#burn-calories)
2) National Institute of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/walking-step-right-direction)
3) WebMD (https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/oa-active-18/oa-start-walking-program)
4) Cleveland Clinic (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14903-walking-your-way-to-better-health)
5) Google search of Endorphins (https://www.google.com/search?q=endorphins&rlz=1C1JZAP_enUS837US837&oq=endorphins++&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i59j0l5j69i61.3915j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8)
Dr. Cliff Heinrich has been practicing Osteopathy for approximately 30 years. He completed his residency in both Family Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). Dr. Cliff had been Board Certified in Family Medicine/OMM but chose to focus mainly on Osteopathic Manipulation. He had taught Osteopathy to medical students in his clinics for over a decade. He also taught Osteopathy as a professor at a medical school for a few years before he and his family relocated to another country (where he has taught osteopathy for an additional 5 years). People have come to see him from around the world for their innumerable complaints. After 25,000+ (moderate to low estimate) hours of treating his patients, he has come to believe that restrictions or areas of tension within the tissues interfere with the natural flow and motion of the body. Dr. Cliff developed Dynamic-Momentum to remove these restrictions or areas of tension in the tissues so that every individual may potentially have greater flow and motion within their bodies.