In this time of social distancing and with spring weather finally here, there is extra motivation to get out of the house and get walking!
Walking is a whole-body activity with multiple benefits:
- Cardiovascular Health
- Bone health
- And more!
What we often forget are the respiratory advantages of walking – the breathing benefits.
Respiratory Benefits of Walking
As we walk, our upper body and lower body rotate in opposite directions. As our upper body rotates to the right, our lower body rotates to the left, and then the whole pattern reverses. It is easiest to recognize this opposition when looking at our arm swing; our right arm swings forward at the same time the left foot steps forward and vice versa.
Internally our ribcage experiences this same alternation between right and left as we walk, aiding and enhancing the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. Imagine you’re Iron Man, with a light shining at the front of your chest. As you walk, try to imagine that light shining equally to the right and left. The better your ability to rotate to both sides, the better your breathing becomes.
- Where have you been walking since spring hit the Twin Cities?
- Do you always turn right when you leave your house? How about taking a left next time?
- Do you tend to look down? What if you glanced up instead?
- Have you been pushing your kids in the stroller? What if you alternated pushing with each arm for a few blocks?
These are just a few ideas to improve your ability to move air in and out of your body.
Walking on varied surfaces, challenging your walking speed, going up and down hills, and changing your path all challenge your ribcage’s ability to move and alternate. Therefore, they are all great ways to train and enhance the respiratory exchange that happens as we walk.
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