Walking is a fantastic exercise for so many aspects of life. As Dr. Robert H. Butler put it “If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation”.
Exercise has been shown to benefit mental and physical wellbeing. It can help to improvement physical functioning and mood in people who have suffered from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancers, mental illnesses and joint and muscle pain.
Walking is the quintessential form of exercise. It is an integral part of everyday life, from getting out of bed and moving through the house, to getting to and from work and it forms the basis of most leisure activities.
For walking to be beneficial it need to be at least 10 minutes in length and should amount to a minimum of 30 minutes per day for 5 days each week. That has been shown to be the minimum amount required to live a healthy life. However, walking more than the recommended levels will only increase the health gains.
But like everything in life, for everything we do that has a beneficially effect on our life there is usually some negative side however small. Exercise does increase the risk of injuries and pain. However these are so small that very rarely is anyone advised against exercise.
Walking can lead to tightness in your calf due to these muscle being the primary movers of the body as you walk. This repetitive contraction of these muscles can lead to tightening of the muscles and the formation of trigger points. To relieve this you can stretch your calf muscle before and after each walk – 30 seconds on each leg, or foam roll the painful areas 10-20 times before and after your walks. An alternative if you like to treat yourself is to have a massage or dry needling treatment on the calf.
Walking in natural environments such as through a forest, on a beach or on a stony surface can be more enjoyable, but can lead to different snags. Walking on these uneven surfaces can lead to further tightening of the calf. Walking on this type of surface requires the muscles on the inside and outside of the ankle to work harder to stop the ankle rolling and being injured. The softer surface that often accompanies these uneven surfaces requests a stranger push off from the calf muscles. That can overload them further and result in more severe or frequent muscle knots.
To help overcome these effects of walking on softer/uneven surfaces, you can strengthen the muscles that help to stabilise the ankle. This can be done with balance exercises, such as standing on one leg and shaking your head up-down, side to side and turning it left to right. You could also stand on one leg and close your eyes of stand on a pillow. Keeping your balance for up to 30 seconds will help to increase the strength and endurance of the muscles around the ankle.
Building up the strength in these muscles will lead to a greater tolerance for the load placed through them as you walk, and will also help to prevent ankle strains.
Video: Calf Stretches
Profile: About Daniel and ReBalance Physiotherapy Clinic
Daniel is a Chartered Physiotherapist and Clinic Director of ReBalance Physiotherapy in Dublin city centre. Daniel’s, and his clinic’s, philosophy is to reduce pain through manual techniques while teaching patients exercises to help encourage the healing process and prevent re-occurrences. Daniel holds degrees in physiotherapy and physiology, and post-graduate certificates in strength and conditioning and clinical exercise. He has also undergone further training in Pilates and dry needling. ReBalance Physiotherapy has a high performance rehab gym, along with treatment rooms. Small group Pilates classes are also run in the clinic to aid in chronic injuries and performance enhancement.