By Dr. Mark Wiley, OMD, PhD
There are many causes of pain, and many contributors to the ongoing pain-pills-inactivity cycle. Your back hurts, your head is throbbing, your fibromyalgia is aching... so you swallow the meds and sit-out the day. Just like you did yesterday and will do tomorrow. You can't imagine doing otherwise.
This is a vicious cycle that many chronic pain sufferers get caught up in. You hurt, you need to get through your day, so you take what pills you need to mask the pain and "function" in the world. But part of the problem is your lack of exercise.
Believe me when I tell you, I was a chronic pain sufferer for almost 30 years, and I know that even basic chores like cleaning and laundry can be painful, let alone trying to do rigorous physical exercise.
Well, here's the deal. Exercise is necessary to reduce pain. Why? Because it gets everything moving: the heart, the lungs, the muscles and joints. The good news? All you need to do to start feeling relief is to get your body moving for 20 minutes per day. And low-impact walking is enough movement to help stop the pain-pill-inactivity-pain cycle. Here's why...
Walking is an aerobic activity, but since it is low-impact there is little wear-and-tear on the joints and little (if any) triggering of pain from the jarring action of the bodyas experienced in high-impact aerobic exercise or jogging. Although it is a simple activity, walking actually utilizes most of the muscles of the body to propel you forward and keep you in balance while increasing respiration, heart and lung function, blood and oxygen flow, and the "burning off" of blood sugars and fats and removal of toxins and other wastes through sweat and improved eliminative functions. All this, of course, causes a vast decrease in... PAIN!
Walking is so simple and "ordinary," yet in one 20-minute session you can raise HDL good cholesterol levels, increase respiration within safe limits, sweat out toxins, release the endorphin feel-good hormone, improve heart function, begin reducing weight, reduce stress, promote relaxation and improve overall endurance and body tone. Amazing!
Many of the triggers that attack your health and cause pain can be reduced or eliminated simply by walking. And this activity only requires time, as no special place need be made to do italthough it is preferable to walk in a park as opposed to a busy city sidewalk.
Though walking in and of itself is a common activity, few of us do it properly. In fact, walking as we naturally do will do little for our purposes. You must look to walking as a mind/body activity, wherein your mind is clear, emotions calm, respiration steady, body properly aligned and relaxed and each walking step even and balanced. If you are able to integrate each of these components while walking for at least 20 minutes a day, then your walks can be considered a microcosm of an integrated mind/body approach to health and wellness... and you will begin to derail the chronic pain cycle on your first outing.
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