Incline Walking – Simple Yet Effective!
A wise man once told me….
To always back my opinions up with facts; In a recently published small scale study from the people over at Ball State University (U.S.A) it was found that incline walking (on a treadmill or outdoors) can have benefits for people with knee osteoarthritis or following knee replacements.
A research team led by Henry Wang, PhD, an exercise science professor at Ball State, studied 15 volunteers at the university’s biomechanics laboratory. They found walking on an incline treadmill reduces stress on the knee joint while strengthening lower limb muscles. Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and lower leg muscles are all targeted when walking at an incline, with increased muscle recruitment in comparison to walking on a flat surface.
For the study, participants walked in the centre of the treadmill at 5%, 10%, 15% and 20% gradients while maintaining consistent speed for three-minute bursts. Researchers used 3-D motion analysis to study movement and impact on the knee joint.
“Incline walking can strengthen leg muscles while introducing less joint load or pressure to the knee,” Wang said in the release. “Therefore, it can be an ideal exercise for these individuals.”
What if I don’t have knee osteoarthritis or a recent knee replacement?
In my opinion, findings from this study reach much further afield than the individual conditions targeted for research purposes!
One population that immediately springs to mind are athletes; specifically those looking to further their conditioning without more unnecessary impact on lower limb joints. Any athlete involved in a running-based sport will tell you that the less time spent running outside of training, the better. Incline walking is therefore an extremely beneficial tool for any athlete involved in a running based sport. Over and above the obvious gains in cardiovascular abilities, one would see gains in lower limb muscle strength.
Implications also reach further afield. I am referring to the everyday fitness enthusiast. Walking and jogging are accessible forms of exercise and extremely beneficial to ones quality of life and general health, the negatives are often forgotten though!
“Waking is a daily activity and a common exercise for all age groups and can provide many benefits, including reducing the risk for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity,” Wang said in a news release. “Despite its benefits, fitness walking also involves risk factors, including increased frontal plane knee loading, which may lead to cartilage degeneration.”
Whats the take-home message?
In summary, incline walking has similar benefits (an average male burns 300 calories in 30 minutes at a 15% incline walking at 4kmh) but with decreased strain on ones joints. The increased muscle recruitment in the lower limbs also means an increase in muscle strength and toning in what many like to call a “problem area”.
I’ve personally always advocated exercise as the best medicine, but exercise smarter and reap greater rewards, with less potential harm to important joints and structures!
Study abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24472218