Walking To Better Spine Health
Walking delivers a number of health benefits, a better-conditioned spine among them. We explain how walking supports spine health, with guidelines to help you incorporate walking into your weekly routine.
A stroll as part of a morning routine or as a reflective ritual at the end of the day is a pleasure in itself. But having a regular walking program also delivers significant health benefits that help maintain a well-conditioned spine and can ease episodes of back pain. Studies have shown that a single session of walking—as little as 10 minutes on a treadmill—can lead to a significant reduction in low back pain.
Benefits of walking
When we walk, our brain releases serotonin and endorphins, chemicals that make us feel better physically and emotionally. Walking can also block pain by stimulating the large nerves in the leg muscles. These large nerves send stronger signals to the brain that override the pain messages sent by smaller nerves.
For most people, walking is a very gentle way to get exercise that supports the spine in five ways.
- Walking strengthens the muscles supporting the spine. With every stride, you strengthen the muscles in your feet, legs, hips, and torso that stabilize your spine.
- The aerobics of walking nourish spinal structures. Aerobics raises your heart rate and supports strong circulation to carry nutrients to spinal tissues.
- Walking encourages good posture and flexibility. As you swing forward with each step, you maintain your range of motion, balance, and an erect posture.
- Walking improves bone strength. The low impact of a walking program can help prevent osteoporosis without taking a toll on your weight-bearing joints.
- Walking helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise burns calories. Especially as we age and our metabolism slows, a regular walking program can help us avoid weight gain and the added stress that excess weight puts on our spine.
Advantages of a walking program
One of the advantages of a walking program is accessibility. Walking does not require a major investment in special equipment. A pair of well-fitting walking shoes is all you need to begin. There’s no seasonal restriction on walking; you can walk outdoors or indoors all year long—at a variety of locations to keep your interest piqued. If passing scenery isn’t a motivator, you can achieve your walking goals using a treadmill while you watch television or listen to music.
Start slow and listen to your body
As with any new exercise, it is important to begin slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you spend walking. If you are concerned about back pain, walk on a flat surface. Hills can cause us to lean forward and put additional stress on our back.
Although forms of aerobic exercise like walking have been shown to reduce low back pain without aggravating the spine, some people with painful spine conditions may find walking too uncomfortable to incorporate into a regular exercise routine. With any new exercise, if you have any concerns, always consult with your physician or physical therapist before supplementing your exercise routine.
When to seek spine treatment
Summit Orthopedics is home to Minneapolis/St. Paul’s top spine specialists for neck and back pain treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or pain that doesn’t go away after a couple weeks, the spine team at Summit Orthopedics will work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan to address your problems. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained spine surgeons are here to consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options.
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