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Take a Fall on the Wild Side

Let’s talk about the walk.

You get out of bed and walk to the toilet, you walk to the kitchen table and eat breakfast, you walk to the car and drive to work, you walk to your desk and work all day, you walk to your car and drive home, you walk to your table and eat dinner, you walk to the couch and watch tv, you walk to bed and start all over.

Wow, that’s a lot of walking, right? No, actually, that’s a lot of sitting.

Walking, like breathing, is something we all do and we all take for granted (until you can’t do it). Walking, like breathing, is something we need to do. Not in the “Canada Food Guide-it’s good for you-20 minutes a day” sense, but in the real biological sense. Walking is the optimal oxygen delivery system for muscles. We use more muscles to walk than we do to run, and with less tax on joints and tissues. Walking is literally what we were designed to do, for long periods of time.

But, there’s walking, and then there’s walking. And what most of us do is closer to falling than walking. Because we spend so much of our lives sitting from school age right through to retirement, our gait patterns change over time to an anterior driven pattern – which is using the front of the leg to pull us forward, as opposed to the back of the leg to push us forward.

Even if you can add “walk to the gym” and “walk on the treadmill” to that list above, you are still sitting far too much and emphasizing your sitting muscles when you walk. It might be hard to spot but if you spend some time watching people as they walk, you can hone your eye to see the difference. For example, do you (or your unsuspecting subject) land on a straight knee (good) or a bent knee (not so good). Is the trunk bent slightly forward (not so good) or is the spine travelling through space over the legs vertically (good). How long does the leg in back (the one that is supposed to be pushing you forward) stay on the ground? And why does it even matter as long as I’m getting where I need to get (like from the couch to the bed)?

Well, this is why it matters: if you are using muscles that are short from too much sitting to walk, you are adding a lot of unnecessary friction to your hips and knees, which causes osteoarthritis. The muscles that should be getting stronger from your walking activity are not, which has repercussion to spine and pelvic floor health. Your feet are overloaded and your arches and nerves will suffer. Your tight lower leg leads to an acceleration in the spine sending your ribs and head forward into hyperkyphosis, which can lead to osteoporosis. What you are doing essentially is leaning forward and bringing a leg under yourself – literally falling forward step after step.

WHAT? All that just from walking out of alignment?

It’s pretty crazy, that thing you are doing because you’ve been told (by your health care provider usually) to do more of, is actually contributing to your decline. The good news is, you can learn how to walk (again). Walking in alignment addresses those issues and restores normal function. Walking is truly one of the most beautiful things you can do for yourself. You can see the world in a slower way, talk to people (say hi! – you’d be surprised), wind your clock, feed your muscles and generally get a glow on mentally.

To end, I will select a picture from a recent walk I had in San Francisco. So put on your best walking shoes, load some Lou Reed on your music device, and talk a walk on the wild and aligned side!

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