Detrimental Effects of Walking

This is not a request for medical advice.

I’ve always heard that regular walking was one of the simplest and best ways for an average person to exercise. This websitestates that walking is a low impact form of exercise, which is what I had been taught. While talking to a friend recently he made the point that walking regularly, and we aren’t talking about 20 miles a day here, will eventually wear out your joints, specifically your hips and knees.

I explained to him that unless you are really pushing the definition of ‘walking’ to include ‘long distance walking’ or ‘speed walking’, I didn’t think long term it would cause any real damage. He went on to say that by definition walking (just like jogging or running) causes some amount of wear, and if you do it long enough it will eventually lead to problems. I called BS (… to myself) and walked away at that point. BTW my friend lives a fairly sedentary life while I spend a good portion of my time hiking in the woods around my house.

So who is right? Is walking a great low impact exercise and something that you can do until you’re 90 years old with little or no adverse effects, or will regular old fashioned walking wear out your joints and lead to a hip or knee replacement sooner or later? We’re talking about a normal, healthy adult with no other medical issues to speak of.

Sounds like someone who doesn’t like walking.

I remember him saying that walking may be ‘low impact’, but it’s not ‘no impact’.

I tried to explain some of the benefits of walking, like improved cardiovascular health and better weight control, but he kept arguing that having a hip replaced would outweigh any benefits… so eventually I stopped arguing and walked away.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you haven’t done any exercise in a very long time and you walk too much (5 miles a day, every day) you can cause yourself a bit of harm. Mostly, though, if you feel pain, just back off a bit and you’ll be fine. The wear and tear on your body isn’t permanent, and as long as you don’t overdo it, the body repairs itself and makes itself stronger. You just don’t want the wear and tear to exceed the body’s self-healing abilities.

If you slowly build your way up to longer distances, walking in the long term is much better for you than not walking, and by making your joints and muscles stronger you will actually be LESS likely to need a hip replacement when you are older.

My mother had a hip replacement, and walking afterwards helped her heal significantly.

Tell your friend that you can’t live life without acquiring any wear. We corrode a little bit with every breath. Yet we need oxgyen. And we need to walk too.

Arthritis can be exacerbated by weak muscles. I know that when I’ve been sedentary for long periods, my left knee aches like the dickens in the middle of the night. It pops and cracks and makes me feel like I’m an arthritic old lady. But this only happens when I don’t get my walking in. When I’m walking consistently every day, it’s like my arthritis has been cured. My guess is that my leg muscles are given to weakness if I don’t work them out. Weak muscles => poor alignment=> bones digging into each other.

He’s rationalizing his unwillingness to exercise, that’s all.

Detrimental effects of walking only apply if your body is trashed already.

(Please note, I’m not promoting a raw food diet or the rest of that website; but that is a good list which is congruent with all the medical advice I’ve ever read, personally or professionally.)

The only thing I can find that suggests that walking might not be optimal in terms of osteoarthritis/hip replacement risk does not compare walking to a sedentary lifestyle, but rather to running. Running appears to lower the risk of OA/hip replacement a little bit more than walking; the effect is believed to be attributable to the lower average BMI of runners. ( Since a high BMI is strongly associated with the risk of OA and need for hip replacement, he’d have to make a much stronger argument for me to suggest that walking is worse than living life as an overweight couch slug, even for that particular risk factor. (A normal or underweight couch slug, perhaps. But there aren’t many of those.)

But engineer_comp_geek is right in that if you are significantly out of shape, you should start slow, even with walking. My husband, who is in more than one of those categories above, was instructed by his cardiologist to go outside, walk 12 sidewalk segments, turn around and walk back and call it a day. That’s, oh, I don’t know…60 feet or so? He was instructed to build on this by “two or three” sidewalk segments a day until he worked his way up to two city blocks and back (about half a mile.) So while it should be physician supervised, even a morbidly obese guy with a recent heart attack, severe disease of the heart valves, congenital heart disease, a greatly enlarged heart and a severe heartbeat irregularity will benefit from walking. Just not a lot of walking all at once.

Thanks everyone. I feel pretty much vindicated.

I would think sitting too much would be worse for hip and knee joints.

What kind of exercise is he suggesting, that does not cause any wear at all to anything?

Walking may not be no impact, but it’s lower impact than any equivalent.

Well, maybe, doing that jogging in water thing is lower. But that’s not a great way to get anywhere. Well, except someplace in chest deep water.

The thing is, the “wear and tear” caused by walking is repaired by your body’s systems. So while he’s technically right that there is wear, the body is more than capable of repairing that wear so it’s not permanent damage. in fact, you’re a living thing and taking in food gives you the energy to make repairs and even improvements – walking regularly will make you stronger, not weaker.

What is this “wearing down” crap? A reasonable amount of physical stress (followed by rest and recovery) is exactly what we want, so our bodies can adapt by making us stronger. Bones, ligaments, and hormones, in addition to muscles, get stronger when a stimulus is applied.

We’re not inanimate objects, so why would he want to treat himself like a museum piece? In the case of humans exercise makes us better, and being sedentary “wears us down”.

I see what you did here. :smiley:

Walking is definitively bad for you if you end up walking to the ice cream cone place. :wink:

Also, this “impact” business is overrated. “Low impact” = “Low benefit”, unless you have a specific medical condition like a lack of knee cartilage where running might be contraindicated.

Or desire to have healthy knees when you are middle aged. Now I will have to duck and cover while the runners in the group trot around me in a circle and take turns kicking me. :eek: I’m out of here!

I have peripheral vascular disease in my lower legs, and am encouraged to walk as much as possible. But if I walk too much or especially too fast, I get very painful cramps in my lower legs. But all I have to do is rest when I need to, with some gentle stretching exercises, and there’s no more problem. So I try to do some walking every day. If the weather’s bad, I do some supermarket shopping (every aisle) or walk in the mall.

It’d still be better, on balance, than waddling over to your car and driving over to the ice cream cone place.

TBH, although I know it’s still a net loss regarding caloric reduction, I still prefer to walk to the local ice cream parlor (about 5 blocks up and down hills in the neighborhood) because at least I’m working a little before ingesting pointless carbs and fat. Tasty, tasty pointless carbs and fat.

The flip-side to his argument is that your body will deteriorate without stresses being placed upon it. If all you do is lie in bed, your muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, etc will all degrade. So you won’t have any wear in your joints, but you won’t be able to move because everything hurts anytime pressure is put upon it. When you’re old, all you’ll be able to do is sit and watch TV because your body is too weak to move.

You must work out your body for it to remain healthy. The trick is to work it out in such a way to minimize the destructive effects of the stresses. If you push too hard too quickly, you can damage your body. But if you ramp up slowly, your body will adapt to the level of stress and not get damaged. And by working out, you improve all the systems in your body, reducing the chances for fatal health conditions.

Prior to a century or so ago, virtually every human being who ever lived walked practically every inch that they moved during their entire lifetime. It would be puzzling if evolution had failed to accommodate this by selecting for a tolerance for the activity.