Walking everyday is a great start – but adaption occurs when the body is presented with the change!
Walking everyday is healthy but it could be healthier!
By now most people have heard that walking everyday has a variety of health benefits.
Walking is a full-body exercise but it is particularly good at strengthening the legs and hips. This helps to undo some of the damages of prolonged sitting.
So walking everyday appears to be pretty sweet. What is less talked about is that not all walks are created equal. More of the same is not always better.
If we consistently change the types of walks we partake in we can provide the body with the stimulus it needs for greater adaption. This equals greater health.
Walking is not a singular movement
When most of us think of walking we think of it as a singular movement. This likely is because the exercise culture cites the benefits of walking but doesn’t teach us the different varieties of walk.
We are told to walk more but we are not told to vary our types of walks.
Consistently walking on a treadmill or walking on a flat surface is what many of us are used to in our controlled environments.
This however only provides the body with one type of stimulus for which to adapt.
It is far more representative of how our tribal ancestors would have walked if we make every walk unique.
The more variety we add to our walks the better we are able to move and the healthier we become.
To adopt a broader range of movement whilst walking try some of the following.
Go barefoot while walking everyday
When walking in shoes the movement pattern is different when compared to walking barefoot. Similar to how walking on a treadmill is not the same as walking on the ground.
The movement throughout the ankles, knees and hips are altered by the shoe. This is also true to the distribution of effort from the muscles used.
Walking barefoot or in minimalist shoes activates the joints at the correct angles. In addition to triggering the correct proportion of effort from each of the muscles that are recruited.
There is also the issue that when wearing shoes, our foot consistently strikes the ground on the same surface (the shoe).
This only provides a narrow range of variability for the various muscles and joints in the foot (and body) to experience.
This is why in addition to us walking barefoot (link) or in minimalist shoes it is also important for us to…….
Practice walking daily on a variety of terrain
Similarly to always wearing shoes, always walking on flat terrain (think pavements or building floors) only provides one type of load for the foot and body to experience.
This is because the weight of body is always evenly distributed across the foot (or should be).
However when walking on natural terrain there is a mosaic of loads for the body to adapt to. The foot never strikes the ground at the same angle or lands with the same amount of pressure.
To vary your walk further try walking across a variety of terrain. Find paths without an even surface to vary the load.
Walking over various debris such as the branches you will find on the floor of a woodland also adds another form of variety.
Balance across fallen trees, or navigate the many shapes of rocks at a beach.
Try walking up and down hills of different textures and gradients.
All these different terrains create unique loads for the body to adapt to.
Walk throughout the day
Instead of walking once a day it is healthier to walk more frequently even if the total distance is the same.
Taking a five mile walk and then sitting in a cubicle for 8hours is less healthy than walking 2 miles, 1 mile and another 2 miles at different periods.
The body likes to move frequently. Squeeze in walks whenever your schedule will allow.
Walking after meals is particularly useful as it aids digestion.
Change the distance when walking everyday
Consistently walking the same distance doesn’t stress the body to adapt. Change breeds adaption. By alternating the distance of the walk the body has to be prepared for the unexpected.
The tribesman would never have walked the same route over and over again. Some days he would have found food close to camp. Other days he may have had to complete a marathon to find his meal.
We can adopt this approach when walking. Some days we can take frequent short walks and other day we endure a full day blast. It all adds to the variability.
Don’t just walk, move!
Walking everyday is fantastic but our walk becomes even more exciting (and healthy) when we combine walking with other movement elements.
When we carry things we change the distribution of weight throughout the muscles used. Walking with a log or a rock over a short distance is particularly strenuous.
Even carrying a bag in different ways adds variety and changes the load. Balancing across logs while carry something is particularly challenging.
When walking find something to forage, climb a tree, rest in the squat position, or chase some something. Become more curious about your environment and your ability to move though it will evolve.