Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Watch your step before you start walking in Bangalore

Watch your step before you start walking in Bangalore

Swathi Shivanand

Pathways are being laid with cobblestones, which can cause harm to walkers

— PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR

More harm than good: A view of one of the parks whose paths have been ‘beautified’ with cobblestones, with little understanding of the harm they can cause walkers.

BANGALORE: For all the afflictions that the urban dweller is prone to, be it diabetes, obesity or arthritis, there is one remedy that all and sundry recommend — walking. Short, brisk walks may as well replace the proverbial apple that keeps the doctor away.

However, you may want to watch your step before you start walking or jogging in the city. While wearing the right kind of footwear is important, what is equally imperative is the kind of surface you tread on.

In the nearly 500 parks in the city, walkways in parks are in the process of being “beautified” with cobblestones, or cemented surfaces in certain cases, by the keeper of the city’s parks, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.

Experts say that while cobblestones are not the ideal surfaces to be walking or jogging on, cemented walkways are definitely not for the purpose either.

“Every step you take on a hard surface, the ground hits back at you with equal pressure, causing what is called repetitive micro trauma. For people who already have knee, back or hip problems, it further exacerbates their injuries,” says Hemant Kalyan, consultant surgeon and head of Orthopaedic Department, Manipal Hospital.

Deepak Sharan, medical director at RECOUP Neuromusculoskeletal Rehabilitation Centre, says: “Walking on cobblestones is fine but one must always be on one’s guard because such walkways are frequently uneven. Jogging is definitely not recommended on cobblestone pathways because it could lead to muscular problems.”

Regular jogging on such surfaces could lead to problems such as shin splints, ankle sprain and myofascial pain syndrome, adds Dr. Sharan.

Earth and grass surfaces are the best ones to walk on because they are soft, says Dr. Kalyan. If the reason for authorities to opt for concrete or cobblestone walkways is to prevent them turning slushy during the rain, they might as well consider surfaces that do not have water-holding capacity such as sand or gravel, says Dr. Sharan.

Parks are about the only safe urban spaces for walkers and with the number of people taking to walking going up, it is perhaps time for authorities to incorporate public health into their design plans.

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