So what is a return to walking program? We have great evidence to support gentle activity/movement being beneficial to our bodies. And the current recommendations are 30min x 5 days a week + 2 strength based sessions.

So what if you can’t physically manage to walk 30min most days of the week? And you’d like to? Now if you can play a soccer game or run 10km this may not interest you… BUT you may know someone that you can help understand this concept. Also: being an understanding friend is a very valued position!

NOW for those of you that can’t play a soccer game, can’t run 10k and can’t walk 30min this is for you:

IF YOU CAN WALK 10min YOU ARE DOING GREAT! IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WALK MORE, AS WELL AS MORE CONSISTENTLY WITHOUT FLARING UP THIS IS HOW WE DO IT.

Now this comes from my experience working with Teenagers post spinal surgery. We always had a return to walking program with a goal of getting them back to 30+min walking 5+ days. Now I understand that teenagers may be a bit more “bounce backable” than the rest of us but I loved the specificity of a plan like this when it comes to bodies that are not as resilient as others (YET!).

SO HOW DO WE GET STARTED?

Step 1 – we shift our mindset that the small amounts ‘aren’t enough’. This may mean that you need to wear joggers when you do your starting walks or that you have a tick chart of ‘walk’ on the fridge – whatever you need to acknowledge that doing this is awesome! And you are amazing 😊

Step 2  – we work out how far you can walk without flaring up (getting more sore than usual, feeling too fatigued etc). This is to avoid the ‘boom and bust’ of going straight out for a 30min walk (when you can only really manage 15) and then being unable to walk for days due to flare up.

Step 3 – we make a plan and start at the point that matches you. So let’s say you can manage a 10min walk you will start at Level 3. If you can manage 15min start at Level 6. The Levels that have 2 sets of times mean you walk twice a day. The body can tend to handle 2 smaller walks than jumping up to a longer one.

LEVELS to 30min walks

WALK 1 WALK 2
1 5min
2 5min 5min
3 10min
4 10min 5min
5 10min 10min
6 15min
7 15min 10min
8 15min 15min
9 20min
10 20min 15min
11 20min 20min
12 25min
13 30min

The goal is to build up at a pace that means that the body benefits but doesn’t ‘fight back’ against you. So how long you spend on each level is up to you (and depends on your ability to have time to walk twice a day – the building up of the two smaller walks does tend to make a great difference but if it’s not possible it’s not possible). To go back to the teenagers post major spinal surgery, the return to walking goal was to have them walking 5+ x 30min by the 6 month mark post op. For individual goals you can discuss with your physio (or other awesome health professional).

AND IMPORTANTLY

I have experience of using return to walking plans like this with my people, while also needing to complete them myself multiple times over the years (surgeries, illness etc) so if you have questions I am more than happy to answer any from a professional or personal point of view. You can email me at sal@barefootphysiotherapy.com.au

Sal