Walking as injury prevention?

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Feb 2018
7:11pm, 15 Feb 2018
1,026 posts
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A couple of days ago I became aware of a slight niggle in a quad muscle, so rather than exacerbate it yesterday I decided to go for a very brisk walk instead. As I walked I could really feel my hamstrings being worked in a way they're usually not when running, and as I went on, a really interesting thought struck me.

The idea that humans are 'born to run' has become commonplace in recent years. That is, that we have evolved as runners, in order to be able to hunt animals over long distances on the plains of Africa. But we have also clearly evolved as walkers as well, walking probably making up a good proportion of our ancestors' movement, with bursts of running as required.

As a modern day runner, though, with an otherwise rather sedentary life, the vast majority of my mileage is from running, not walking. I wonder whether this actually causes an imbalance in my muscles? I'm not sure the distinction of agonist and antagonist muscles (e.g., quads and hamstrings) applies here because we use quads and hamstrings in both running and walking. But we seem to use them rather differently (hence my noticing my hamstrings yesterday), and no doubt recruit a lot of different smaller muscles for each activity. Is it possible that, because of our evolutionary background, we really should be doing a mix of BOTH walking and running, in order to keep things in balance? In effect, could doing brisk walking as part of our daily exercise help in reducing running injuries? I don't mean as rehabilitation, some exercise to do when you have a running injury, but as something you do alongside running to help prevent injury in the first place.

I'm sure this idea must have been explored before, but I've not come across anything. Does this make sense to people?
Feb 2018
7:46pm, 15 Feb 2018
15,536 posts
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I think that the basic point that humans, for the last few millennia anyway, have been doing a lot more walking than running, is sound. The general population not covering what would seem to nearly everyone today (yes, even us) extraordinary distances on foot as a matter of course is a very recent development. And since very few would be chasing antelopes in the Serengeti, most of it would have been walking.

I do find a big difference between the walking and the running though. I have pretty tight calves and I find that if I try to walk really quickly, it can rapidly become painful, and it's easier to break into a jog. So I think I would personally be more likely to end up injured with a lot of brisk walking!

Walking a bit more is a sound idea for most, but vis a vis injuries (unless you already have an injury and are trying to keep active without aggravating it) I doubt it would make a significant difference.
Feb 2018
11:07am, 16 Feb 2018
1,028 posts
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Dvorak, doesn't that just mean you're not really walking fit, though? A couple of years my wife and I did a 7 mile walk with a couple of friends, at the end of which we were both a bit sore and tired, which came as a bit of a shock. We both agreed that, had we run it, it would have been vastly easier - nothing, really. Since then I've done a lot more walking and have definitely got my muscles more used to it. My outing a couple of days ago showed that I'm out of practice again, though.
Feb 2018
11:15am, 16 Feb 2018
11,926 posts
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I'm not sure about the injury prevention, but I do think walking is underrated as a recovery tool - I have found short walks in the afternoon after a long run help prevent DOMS, and walking in a non-running week after a big event also helps. Bint is a real master of walking as recovery when either resting or coming back from injury.
5 Apr
9:42pm, 5 Apr 2022
24,747 posts
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Depends how you walk, it’s easy to over-overstride when trying to walk fast, which I find is really not good for my knees.
Walking as recovery between runs I’m sure is really useful though and I’m missing doing the essential dog walks that would get everything working gently after a hard run

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Maintained by J2R
A couple of days ago I became aware of a slight niggle in a quad muscle, so rather than exacerbate i...

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