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Do you sit for hours at your workstation and feel a backache creeping up your spine at the end of the day? Like millions of people, you’ve probably asked yourself at least once, “Why does my back hurt when I’ve done nothing but sit around?” The answer to that is in the question itself — your back hurts because you have been sitting all day long.
As the experts say, sitting is the new smoking. Prolonged sitting has been associated with numerous issues such as body aches and muscle soreness, as well as threatening health risks like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or even death. One of the best ways to get rid of the backache that you experience after being seated for too long is to get up and walk.
That’s right! It may sound contradictory but best believe, you’ll be doing your back a huge favor. Here’s how walking can help ease your lower back pain.
How Sitting Down Affects the Muscles
Our bodies are naturally built to stand upright. Positioning ourselves upright helps the bones maintain strength, exercises the surrounding muscles that hold them together, and allows blood to circulate better. When we sit for long hours, we disrupt this process, pushing the body out of alignment and affecting our overall health.
It also adds pressure to the spine and the back muscles, causing severe and chronic back pain. There’s also an increase in muscle stiffness, especially when we end up slouching while sitting down. Slouching can cause undue stress to the ligaments of the spine and can lead to abnormal forces in the lumbar joints and discs, causing pain. The longer we spend sitting, the more likely we’ll end up slouching and end up with stiff hips, increasing back pain.
Does Walking Help in Easing Back Pain?
Now that you know how sitting can cause back pain, it’s time to understand how walking can help bring relief to your lower back. We all know by now that exercise is good for us. Exercising is one of the greatest ways to stay fit and healthy as it can help strengthen the muscles, reduce the occurrence of chronic illnesses, and aid in fighting serious health conditions.
Furthermore, science has proved time and time again that physical movement can help prevent lower back pain. Included in the list of physical activities that can reduce back pain is walking.
In a study where around 5,000 older adults participated, it was found that those who took up walking as a routine were less likely to have lower back pain. A quarter of the participants who did not walk regularly were found to have experienced back pain for at least one month, if not longer.
Another study published in the journal of Clinical Rehabilitation in 2013 found that walking two to three times a week for 20 to 40 minutes each time was effective in alleviating back pain. According to the researchers, the results showed that active walking causes the abdominal and back muscles to work together in the same way as they do when a person performs strengthening exercises that target those particular areas.
However, unlike strengthening workouts, walking requires no special equipment or supervision, making it the most accessible and easiest way for individuals to raise their physical activity levels. It is the simplest yet most effective option for those looking for relief from stiffness and discomfort in the lower back.
Here are a couple more great reasons why walking can be good for your lower back:
Walking Strengthens the Muscles that Support the Spine
The trunk, core, and lumbar muscles are vital in maintaining the stability and movement of the lower back. If a person isn’t physically active or leads a sedentary lifestyle, these muscles can become conditioned and weak, causing a malalignment of the spine.
It can also weaken the muscles over time, causing fatigue and injury. When you regularly walk, you help improve your back muscles and reduce pain as walking opens up the blood vessels, increasing oxygen supply and nutrients.
Moreover, lack of exercise can cause physiologic toxins to accumulate within the lower back muscle tissues, causing stiffness. When you walk, you flush out these toxins, improving the strength and integrity of your lower back.
Walking Increases Flexibility in the Lower Back
When we don’t exercise, our muscles and joints in the lower back, as well as our hips, become stiff. This also creates more pressure on the lower back, altering the normal curvature. Walking can help in increasing flexibility by stretching the muscles and ligaments in the back, legs, and buttocks.
The hamstrings, spinal muscles, and hip flexor muscles are also activated and stretched when walking. The overall range of motion in the lower back is also improved thanks to walking. Having better movement and an increased range of motion can lead to injury prevention.
Walking Improves Mental and Physical Health
Our mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. Walking can stimulate the brain into releasing serotonin and endorphins which are neurotransmitter chemicals that can make us feel better both mentally and physically. When we take walks, we refresh our minds, boost our mood, lower our stress levels, and soothe our sore muscles, leading to an overall reduction in lower back pain.
Walking is a great way to ease the lower back pain that you may experience due to sitting for long periods. You don’t even have to suit up for the gym just to take a walk. This activity is free, convenient, and can be done anytime, anywhere without the need for any equipment. The more that you walk regularly, the more benefits you’ll reap.