What Does Your Walk Say About You?

September is Fall Awareness Month, and as I was reading about articles relating to falling, I came across this article on Webmd.com. I found it very interesting about how your gait or stride affects our health. As we age, our gait can tell us a lot about ourselves, more than we know if we know what to look for as we walk. Measuring our gait is a key to understanding if we are at risk for falling or other health symptoms. When I was a kid, I was once told to quite plodding around, not knowing what that meant I just ignored the statement. Now years later I understand why I was plodding around. I hope you enjoy the information listed below.

What Does Your Walk Say About You?

Watch Your Step!

Walking is a complex process. It involves your body from head to toes, including several parts of your brain.

Some strides do more than get you from point A to point B. Your gait, posture, and pace may also be broadcasting clues about your health and personality.

Fast Pace

Longer life: Studies on people over 65 show that a natural need for speed when walking tends to mean you’ll live longer. But it doesn’t work in reverse; you can’t expect to extend your years if you push yourself to move quickly. It’s likely a slow stride reflects underlying issues that may be taking a toll on your overall health.

Veering Left

Anxiety: When you’re tense and worried, you’re less likely to be right — when you walk, that is. Researchers were tracking peoples’ movements as they walked blindfolded found that the more stressed someone felt, the farther left they strayed when aiming for a target straight ahead. This may be because the right side of your brain is working harder to handle your doubts and dread.

Tip-Toe

Mechanical trouble: It’s normal for a young kid to walk on their toes as they learn to be upright in the world. But if that doesn’t stop as they get older, it can mean their Achilles tendon is too short to let their heel touch the ground comfortably. Or it could be a sign of muscle issues like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Toe-walking is also common in kids with autism.

Limping

Osteoarthritis: An unexpected or unnoticed injury could cause a limp, but it could also be a sign of something more. If you’re favoring one leg over the other, or if your legs seem to be buckling from time to time when you walk, you may be showing symptoms of the type of arthritis that wears away your joints over time.

Off-Balance

Alcohol abuse: The line-walking test that police give possible drunk drivers on the side of the road can help you tell whether someone’s brain can keep them steady when they walk. Alcohol abuse can lead to things like muscle weakness and loss of your sense of orientation. This causes an uneven, stumbling walk, even if you’re not drunk. After you give up drinking, you’ll likely get better at moving around, though it may take a while.

Slapping Steps

Weak muscles: If it looks like you’re climbing invisible stairs, you may have foot drop. This typically causes your toes to drag as you walk, and you may step higher to make up for it. It’s more common for only one foot to be floppy, but sometimes it can affect both. It may mean you’ve injured a nerve in your leg, or it could be a sign of a nerve, muscle, brain, or spinal disorder like muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.

Slower Than You Used to Be

Alzheimer’s disease: Scientists say changes in the speed of your walk over time could be one way to predict whether Alzheimer’s or other memory problems are on your horizon. If Alzheimer’s is behind the downtick, the trend will continue as the disease gets worse.

Monthly Variations

Fertility: Could your menstrual cycle be subtly signaling the opposite sex the best time to make a baby? Studies point to yes. Men watched the silhouettes of women dancing and walking at different times in their cycle. They were much more likely to find the women attractive when they were at their most fertile.

Swaying

Brain injury: Do you rock back and forth to keep it together as you walk? Assuming it’s not an alcohol problem, you may want to have a doctor take a look at your head. A knock to your noggin can cause mild brain damage that makes the world spin for a while. Athletes, take note — this is common among people who play contact sports.

Moving One Whole Side Together

Bad back: It might mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing! When you’ve pulled a muscle or have a herniated disc in your lower back, you’re likely to turn your chest and shoulders to match your hips as you stroll, to avoid twisting. Your arms will sway with your legs as you walk briskly, instead of the opposite hand and foot being ahead of you at the same time.

Dragging Your Feet

Parkinson’s disease: Slow, scraping footsteps — especially if you’re a man over 60 — can be a sign that your brain is having a hard time getting the “move” message to your leg muscles. Shuffled steps in a bent-over posture with little to no arm motion are often called the “Parkinson’s gait.” It’s very common among people with the disease.

Stiff, Twisted, Unsteady Gait

Multiple sclerosis: A condition like MS can show up as several specific weaknesses in your walk. You may move with stiff, swinging steps with toes pointed inward, or you may lose your balance more often. Your knees may cross when you walk, which doctors call “scissoring.” Or you may lose feeling in your feet, making it hard to know where the floor is.

Plodding

Depression: This mental illness may feel like a heavy weight on your shoulders, and your walk can show it. It’s not unusual for depression to make you walk with slow, short steps. Luckily, it’s not permanent — you’ll get more pep in your step as your mood improves. Studies show you can even lift your spirits by walking briskly as if you were happy. Your posture helps reroute your thoughts toward the positive.
Sources | Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on December 17, 2017

Now that you read through all the details of what your walk says about you, did you know that at Fellowship Square Mesa, we can measure your gait or your stride? If you want to know more about your gait, we can measure it for you and let you know more about how to improve yourself.  Just give us a call and schedule some time to have your gait measured.  It will only take about 20 minutes.  If you know more about your gait you can learn how to improve yourself and live better.

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