Icy pavement. Sloping sidewalks. Warped flooring. Inconvenience or opportunity? Believe it or not, we were made for walking on uneven ground. Our ancestors’ rock-riddled terrain became perfectly paved sidewalks and manufactured floors, and our bodies have evolved accordingly. To – literally – stay on top of uneven ground, it’s important to incorporate regular use of certain muscle groups and practice balance and coordination. And any less-than-linear surface provides an ideal opportunity.
When we retrain our bodies to adapt to uneven surfaces, we’re doing more than simply navigating bumpy ground. We’re fine-tuning our coordination, strengthening our physical bodies, and improving mental awareness. This not only keeps us in excellent shape, but enhances other vital necessities like sleep, energy, and well-being.
So let’s embrace our inner ancestor and find ways to activate these muscles while practicing balance on a daily basis. The next time you encounter a less than ideal walking surface, consider it an opportunity. Treading uneven ground can be like a mini training course and, with the right approach, will keep you prepared for all of life’s other obstacles.
4 Benefits From Navigating Uneven Ground
1. Enhance Awareness
Navigating uneven surfaces requires us to remain in a state of awareness, rather than resort to auto-mode. We consider our surroundings, notice the way our feet hit the ground, and adapt when necessary. We are mindful, attentive, and in the present. Sounds more like a yoga class than a stroll down the street!
2. Overall Strength
Who says you need to hit the gym in order to build strength? Walking across a parking lot full of snow or navigating a less than linear sidewalk can be a workout of its own. Moving forward across an uneven surface requires us to constantly shift our centers of gravity, improving range of motion and building strength in multiple muscle groups.
3. Motion is Lotion
Our soft tissues – ligaments, tendons and muscles — require movement. Without movement, these tissues can shorten and become stiff which, simply put, feels anything but good. With regular, gentle movement, we can keep our soft tissues loose, preventing stiffness, arthritis, and potential injuries.
4. Coordination and Integration
Navigating uneven ground challenges everything from our hands and feet to eyes and brains to work together in synchronicity in order to move forward safely. Without even realizing it, we are fine-tuning our sensory-motor integration and improving our balance and coordination.
Our entire life is focused on straight lines & sidewalks. The next time you find yourself facing uneven ground, just remember that it can also be opportunity to build strength, balance and coordination.
Move in Confidence: Steps to Prevent a Rolled Ankle or Slip
Now that we know treading on uneven ground can help improve our strength and coordination, how do we make sure that we don’t roll an ankle or slip? We would like to introduce you to the T.E.A.M. Approach. You can use this as a tool to navigate uneven ground and even teach it to your loved ones to help them move in confidence!
Below is an example of how to use the T.E.A.M Approach if you find yourself face to face with an uneven surface and want to move in confidence! It is 4 quick steps to think through before you approach an uneven surface.
TASK : Task is the activity you are about to perform such as walking, lifting, sitting etc.
Example: I am about to walk across a parking lot to get to my car.
ENVIRONMENT : Environment is the conditions surrounding you as you perform the task.
Example: The parking lot I need to walk across to get to my car is covered with ice and the surface of the parking lot is uneven in many places.
APPROACH : Approach is how you are going to perform the task safely in order to protect your body. Think about what strategy or tools you can leverage in order to protect your body while performing the task.
Example: In order to walk across the icy and uneven parking lot to my car, I am going to approach the task using the following protocol:
- Keep my hands free. Doing so will lower my center of gravity and let me use my arms for balance (put my phone in my pocket!)
- Walk like a penguin- bent knees, flat feet, weight over the balls of the feet.
- Stay on paths that have been shoveled and de-iced (when possible)
- Go slow and pay attention!
- Find additional resources such as trekking pole or boots that have grooved bottoms.
MYSELF : Myself is just taking a quick personal self inventory of your body. Are you in the right condition to safely navigate? Do you need to take a moment to breath and perform daily body care?
Example: In order to safely walk across the parking lot, I need to engage my core and warm up my body.
Healthy movement is more than just a prevention plan. Consistently incorporating simple moves and awareness into our everyday circumstances enhances our life – whether we’re a pro athlete or have just welcomed our fifth grandchild. It’s one of those things that anyone can benefit from — so stay prepared, get moving, and have fun!
Disclaimer: Vimocity does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
If you experience any pain with any movements immediately stop and consult a qualified healthcare provider.