January 24, 2019

Walking Is Good For You

So I wrote a post a few weeks ago about an interesting article where doctors were prescribing taking a hike for their patients. This got me thinking about something I'd heard before, but that was not specifically mentioned in the article, that of the benefit to joints from free walking.

I first heard about the joint benefits of free activity in the context of weight lifting. This is pretty much what you think it might be. Rather than using weight machines, you literally just pick up the weight directly and in the process of doing so your main muscles get worked, but so do your supporting muscles and ligaments and this adds not only to your direct lift capability but also makes your muscles more robust and less likely to suffer injuries. Nassim Nicholas Taleb would call this being antifragile. Weightlifters who follow this protocol appreciate the extra strength benefits, but mostly do it for the durability that it builds into their joints. This is also a compelling reason for recommending that people use kettlebells in their workouts because the non-linear movements that most kettlebell exercises require cause even greater ancillary muscle and ligament strength.

Well, it turns out that the same principle that helps free weightlifters also helps freewalkers. When walking on a flat uniform surface, the ancillary muscles and ligaments get very little use and hence do not strengthen significantly from the exercise. In contrast, when a person walks on a rough surface, their ancillary muscles are forced to do more work to support the ankles and knees and help keep the person upright and balanced. This has the same benefits that free weightlifters get. The walkers get stronger muscles and their joints get tougher and less likely to suffer injury from unexpected lateral movements.

Here are a couple of articles that say the same thing with more sciencey words.

Tags: Writings Living Well