And improve your balance and posture
I found myself sweating, even though I was only walking up a gently sloping path. The effort surprised me because I run 5km daily and sprint up steeper slopes without too much effort.
That day convinced me that walking backwards had a lot to offer.
Doing it was challenging the coordination between my brain and body, and using muscles which were otherwise poorly trained and inefficient. That's why I was sweating for such a low level of activity.
As well as running daily, I also walk 5km daily, which is part of my recovery routine for the daily running. During my walk, I now find ways to walk backwards - most often up slopes or on the beach.
Mix and match during the week, or daily if you are a runner
We take our joints for granted until they're injured. None more so than our feet.
Our feet have 26 bones (25 percent of all bones in the human body are in the feet), 33 joints, and more than 80 tendons and ligaments. There are also 20 main muscles, each with different actions and jobs that help us walk, run, jump and stand.
These muscles can become weakened, tightened and inflamed just from our everyday activities. There is a lot that can go wrong - a lot of attached parts that can transmit stress through the entire foot and into our leg, hips and lower back.
That's why keeping our feet flexible and strong is worth a little extra effort. This effort not only helps reduce foot and ankle pain but also strengthen the tendons and improves our mobility and gait.
Not to mention the earthing benefits of bare feet
We take our feet for granted until they're injured. I persisted in running too many extra kilometres in my favourite running shoes until my feet told me to grade-up to new shoes.
As well as bringing out my new shoes, I decided to walk barefooted every day as a way of reconditioning my feet. That turned out to be a fortuitous decision, as I have now found out. You might like to give it a try.
When I decided to walk barefooted, I had no specific theory in mind. I just figured that having the bones, tendons and muscles of my feet moving across a natural surface - road, trail, and the beach in my case - would activate neuromuscular pathways that shoes don't.
Choose something you enjoy and begin gradually
Working out is known to improve the moods of people with depression, although why it works is still somewhat a mystery.
What is not a mystery is research which reveals that exercise intensity is not associated with the level of mood improvement. For example, in this study, all participants experienced about the same level of reduced depression after hard, moderate and light aerobic exercise.
Building regular exercise into your day will improve your day, and you can start as small as you like. Here's how.
Do These To Walk Stronger And Live Longer
As we age, falling is one of the major causes of reduced lifespan, because of the terrible consequences of broken bones and broken spirits.
You may have had the distressing experience of witnessing a healthy older relative who fell, became inactive, and quickly deteriorated. That is why exercising - for all of strength, endurance and balance - is a key to living longer better.
The question is this: if you wish to focus specifically on more competent walking, which exercises and muscle groups should you give most attention?
I have an answer, based upon several related research studies.
Brief outside moderate to vigorous activity is best - take the children
In the midst of widespread working-from-home, COVID-related stress is on the rise. This is partly because of a general decrease in physical activity. For example, I'm currently in Stage 4 lock-down and we are only allowed out once per day for exercise, we need a permit to leave home for work, and cannot travel more than 5km from our home address.
We doing less exercise generally but we are also not getting any exercise associated with commuting, such as walking from the train station to the office.
This is bad news since there is a well-established association between lower levels of total physical activity and lower levels of positive mental health.
The mother you save may be your own
Governments can't cover every loophole when they are enacting novel rules in rapid time. They're doing a great job getting things done, and they rely on cooperation instead of exploitation by we public.
However, some people love loopholes more than they love their mother, even though exercising without a mask might kill their mother - or someone else's mother.
Managing fatigue, rest, recovery and technique to avoid injuries
On my local running trails, people know me as the old guy that runs daily. Some shake their head in disbelief as this 72-year old makes a good pace along the track, and some shake their head in disbelief that I should be so foolish. (MostlyI get cheery smiles and nods.)
What I notice is how many other runners fall by the wayside, with injuries. Running every day is fine if you can do it without injuring yourself. Here's how I manage fatigue, rest, recovery, awareness, breathing and natural time to avoid injuries.
If you are over 50 now's the time to make these changes
We're swamped with nutritional information, but we rarely take action to improve our diets. Healthier eating matters at any age but it matters more as we age. Better choices will help us live longer better.
If you are over 50, now's the time to make those choices. When I was 50 I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I had left my healthy choices too late, but since then, I've been learning every day. Here's what I know that will help you.
Think of your brain, balance and longevity
Around my local suburbs, I have never seen so many people regularly walking for their health. There were always the genteel walkers. But now, with the pandemic and gyms closed, there is a new breed on the paths and tracks.
I'm pleased to observe that they mostly are not "serious" walkers, those with intent looks and machine-driven arms. Although the majority are not so intense, they are satisfyingly consistent and purposeful. I'm one of those - I walk 5km at least once every day, and I've added in walking backwards.
With a single tweak, these regular-walking folk can significantly improve the health and longevity benefits from their activity.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter