But what about going the other way?
“Walking downhill is a great way to improve muscle strength and stability,” says Jason Schuster, DPT, physiotherapist and co-owner of Intricate Art Spine & Body Solutions. “Although it can also cause damage if your muscles and joints are not ready to be subjected to enhanced forces and pressures.” Fortunately, this can be easily avoided if you know how the muscles, joints and nervous system work – and take the time to strengthen your lower body.
The mechanics of downhill walking
Walking downhill requires the muscles in the front of your thighs – the quadriceps – to contract eccentrically, which means they work as the fibers lengthen. Consider a typical dumbbell curl with dumbbells: During a concentric contraction, lift the weight by bending your elbows and shortening your biceps. As you lower the weight and stretch your elbows so that they are straight again, your biceps contract eccentrically as they lengthen as they help you control your weight instead of letting gravity pull the dumbbell to the floor.
Dr. Schuster says that eccentric muscle contractions create more force, which puts significantly more pressure and compression on tissues such as your muscles and joints.
“Wolff’s law states that tissues respond and adapt to the forces exerted through them,” he shares. “So, walking downhill, which increases the forces exerted on the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, you force them to respond by reshaping and strengthening.”
This activates the majority of the muscles in your lower body, including the pelvic floor, which is vital for supporting your pelvic organs and preventing incontinence. “The muscles and joints that people usually feel most are the quadriceps, glutes, back muscles, back muscles, knee joints and waist joints,” notes Dr. Schuster.
The musculoskeletal benefits of downhill walking can even help reduce the risk of arthritis. “[By] “By exerting increased pressure on the joints in a controlled manner, you stimulate increased joint strength and increased production of synovial fluid inside the joint capsule,” he explains. “Having better synovial fluid production is like changing the oil in your car on a regular basis.”
Why does walking downhill cause joint pain?
While walking downhill is a great way to effectively strengthen your legs, the extra forces caused by gravity can put strain on your bones and joints, especially your knees.
“Since we are at a downward angle, the lower part of the knee joint, the tibial plateau, wants to slide further forward secondarily to a greater angular gravitational force,” says Dr. Schuster, who explains that it’s his job. anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to stop the tibia from moving forward in the femur. “If your ACL is not in good enough shape, along with your muscles crossing the knee joint and you make a big downhill, it will hurt. “Walking downhill also increases the shear forces exerted on the menisci, the internal shock absorbers of the knee, which can lead to pain.”
Dr Schuster adds that in addition to the knees, walking downhill can be hard on the lower back because it causes the lumbar spine to expand. This activates the multifunctional muscle, the deepest and most important stabilizing muscle of the spine in the body. “Multifidus dysfunction is one of the leading causes of back pain and pain anywhere in the body,” he says.
So what can you do to walk downhill without pain?
1. Start slowly
To begin to integrate downhill walking into your workout routine without straining your joints or muscles, you will want to gradually dip your toes in the proverbial waters.
“If you are not in shape or you are not used to walking downhill, start with a flat walk, then go uphill and then go downhill,” says Dr. Schuster. At that point, start walking slowly downhill and limiting the distance. Then gradually increase the speed and duration to avoid tissue overload and damage.
2. Reinforce to stabilize
The stronger your muscles are, the more force or workload they can absorb, avoiding your knees, hips and back joints from carrying the main weight of the impact: “Performing exercises with body weight to strengthen it back, knee and pelvic and ankle stabilization Muscles are a great way to improve your downhill walking condition and life in general.
Some of Dr.’s favorites. Schuster are squats (be careful to sit and keep your knees behind your toes), supine curls with your feet on an exercise ball (keep your pelvis high and your transverse abdomen tight), supermans, dogs birds, single – lifting of dead legs, clams with tape around the knees and planks.
3. Order regularly
Do not neglect stretching. “Tight and short muscles are one of the worst things you can do to your joints,” says Dr. Schuster. “This increases joint compression, reduces range of motion, reduces synovial fluid production, reduces blood flow, creates hypoxic and unhealthy tissues and ultimately leads to pain and other injuries, such as arthritis.”
4. Monitor your body position
It is crucial to pay attention to the correct form when walking downhill. “Keep your pelvis at ground level, keep your knees in front of your toes and keep your abs active,” he says.
5. Mix it
While downhill walking has many benefits, Dr. Schuster encourages walkers to enjoy all types of terrain to maximize fitness benefits and minimize injuries from overuse. “Overall, walking on different levels, uphill and downhill, all on the same walk, is the most dynamic and healing way to walk,” he says.
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