Senior Health

Working Around Walking Challenges-Senior Health

man carrying backpack while walking on a paved pathway
Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

The other day, after talking to my physical therapist, I was very depressed. I learned that walking may be making my back issues worse. Since walking has been my relief from stress and provides multiple health benefits, even if I only do a certain amount most days, so it was overwhelming to get this news.

Ever since I was a child, I have used walking as my primary means of exercise. Honestly, it was how I got from point A to point B. We were a one car family and daddy was the only driver. If you needed to get somewhere you walked. Well, until I got my first bicycle with training wheels and graduated with those wheels coming off. Then, it rode that bike everywhere, even when I was too grown for it. You did what you had to do, but I digress. Back to walking.

It was nothing for my friends and I to walk miles every day. We saved our bus fare for school and walked so we had spending money for junk at the corner store on the way to school. It was a lot of fun to walk and kid around with friends and we didn’t think twice about the distance or the time. All those miles probably are what kept weight more down in those teen years when we ate pretty much what we wanted.

By the time I reached adulthood, I was well into walking and while it was nice to have public transportation, I still preferred a nice trek. I was 21 before I got my driver’s license and for work, I paid people to take me when I lived too far from the workplace. I did the same for junior college until I got a license and daddy let me drive the car since he needed my help by that time.

Hiking about the town and countryside was my joy. It was my place to commune with nature and release some of those natural frustrations with life. Much of anything that was bothering me got pounded out on the trails. By the time I was approaching 40 I was walking about 5 miles a day. It was an effort to work on physical and mental health, so I had a clear head to handle whatever came my way. It worked. I had energy, weight loss, mental clarity and was the happiest when in this mode.

Fast forward future and now past, when I was about 42, I had my second knee surgery. The first was when I was about 25 and needed to get my knee tightened up from multiple injuries which led to arthritis. The surgery in my 40s was experimental and rather extensive. It was not a joint replacement, but a rebuilding of the knee. It worked, and I could eventually walk again and even dance.

The effects of this surgery lasted for about 20 years and then I had to get a knee replacement. I should have gotten one sooner, but I wanted to be certain before going forward. The reason I say I probably should have gotten one sooner is because they found I was more progressed in the damage and would never get the range of motion that most knee surgery patients get.

What I hoped for was that I could walk more again. I had been doing a lot of swimming and lost weight before my surgery, which helped prepare and sped up my recovery. This was on the advice of a nurse friend who had undergone knee replacement. I eventually started doing some trail walking which is easier on the joints than walking on concrete. As I cannot get to the trails I have walked on the sidewalks in my community and used the gym at the clubhouse to walk, as well.

Last week, I went to physical therapy for an assessment and treatment plan. It is because of neck and spine pain because of arthritis and stuff. What I learned is that I would be better off using the exercise bike vs walking. I have been using the bike, but it’s not as fulfilling or balanced as walking. I spoke with my friend who has the Occupational Therapy experience and she suggested that I could still walk but go back to the trails. While it is more convenient to use the concrete walkways, it’s not helping my back issues because it tears me up and causes great pain. So, I will use the bike, use the gym and perhaps try the malls and do the trails as weather and logistics allow.

Another important fact to note is that I use trekking poles for trail walking, and these have been most helpful. There is an added benefit in workouts when you use these poles. I ordered mine online and they were very reasonable. My walking partner has a set, as well, due to having plantars fasciitis.

It depressed me to give up walking and I am glad I spoke with my OT friend about ways to work around the obstacles. I hope that with these adjustments that I can continue to walk. It won’t be in how I prefer, and nature gets second place, but there are ways around that too. It is more than likely that I will still be able to enjoy the local gardens and arboretums, just at a pace which allows me to enjoy the offerings without doing damage.

Growing older gracefully can be a challenge, but with some tweaking and help from my friends, I believe I can do this. Why not try, right?

I hope you could gain something from this and wish you will in your endeavors to exercise and gain healthy benefits. Perhaps you would like to share what you are doing to help your health and any obstacles which you would like to overcome.

This is based on my experience. For your own situation there may be other variables. It is always a great plan to consult with your health professional before embarking on health changes.

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