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Walking is the exercise of choice for most people, especially when we would rather be outdoors than in a gym. Walking is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease, the biggest problem that those of us who have diabetes face.
If all we want to do is strengthen our lower body, we need only comfortable clothes and supportive footwear. But walking does little or nothing to strengthen the muscles of our upper body.
Unless we walk with poles, like Ken Mundt does. "The advantage is that I get a whole upper body workout," he told me when I called him at his home in Seattle. "My chest muscles get a good workout, because I don't slam my poles. I place them, and then I push." Ken is now 58. Five years ago when a doctor told him that he has type 2 diabetes, he started a regular pole walking program. Every day during the week he walks between five and six miles with his Exerstrider poles. On Saturday he walks eight miles and takes off on Sunday.
Ken Mundt Strides with his Walk...
No one would think of walking as a perishable skill. Without practice and repetition, walking can become a sloppy waddle. This skill involves multiple intricate components of muscle activation and nerve coordination. The foot and ankle need to be well synchronized to complete good heel-to-toe progression after the heel strikes the ground. The knee and hip must flex and extend at appropriate times. Finally, the pelvis must be able to hold the entire torso up during the precarious moment that a person is standing on one leg as the other leg swings forward. Normally, the individual does not have to consciously think about any of this movement. Sometimes walking is worth a second thought, especially when it hurts to walk.
Foot and ankle coordination can be simply improved by mindfully thinking about flexing the ankle so the toes don't drag on the ground as the leg swings through and mindfully thinking about pushing off after the foot has struck the ground. Many trips and fall...
Now that the weather is turning better and you are starting to shake off those wintertime pains, a walk might sound pretty good right about now. But before you burst out the door with the dog straining at the leash and your brand new walking shoes looking so sparkly, stop to think about what you are doing first. Even though walking seems so easy, there are a few things that could help your first walk of the season be that much more enjoyable and also less likely to cause a flare-up of pain.
First, let's talk about that dog straining at the leash. You are likely to lose that tug-o-war battle and end up with worse pains than when you started your walk. You are supposed to be the one walking the dog, not the dog walking you. Take charge of your walk by expecting the dog to be following you, not out in front of you. As someone who has rescued and trained many excitable bird dogs that want nothing more than to chase small critters, I prefer the Higgins Method for walking a dog .
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