Walking and other weight-bearing activities that engage the muscles in the feet, calves and thighs illicit a pumping effect that aids in moving blood back to the heart. Rhythmic patterns of relaxation and contraction of these muscles, in addition to the movement of the ankle and toe joints, help to increase venous return and help to prevent blood pooling in the lower extremities. Lack of physical movement such as walking and an increase in sitting within our modern American sedentary lifestyle, are major factors that are contributing to the drastic decline in physical and mental wellness of our population within the last decades. More sitting for hours on end at work, behind computer screens, playing video games and engagement with social media are the norm now. In past years physical activity was more prevalent whether from occupations, recreation, social interactions and other reasons. A return to a more active lifestyle is what is necessary to get our nation back on a track of better health and wellness, in lieu of harsh pharmaceuticals for all that ails us, and pursuing living a life without consequences. We are the architects of our own well-being and relative health and happiness.
The venous plantar plexus of the foot, the venous pump of the calf and the thigh muscle pump all work together as part of the venous return mechanism, which sends blood back to the heart. The venous pump of the calf, also referred to as the calf muscle pump, is a very important component of this whole mechanism involving the relaxation and contraction of calf and foot muscles during specific activities such as walking, climbing, exercising and others. The primary muscles of the calf muscle pump are the gastrocnemius and soleus. This engagement of the calf muscles compresses the veins and pushing blood upwards against gravity. The venous plantar plexus is a bundle of veins found in the sole of the foot, having a primary function of collecting de-oxygenated blood from tissues within the foot and moving it back upwards towards the heart. Other muscles in the foot, such as the flexor hallucis brevis, flexor digitorum brevis, and lumbrical muscles, influence toe flexion and extension and consequently help with increasing blood circulation. Both of these mechanisms within the calves and feet contribute to providing efficient blood circulation back up to the heart, as well as preventing blood pooling (edema) in the lower extremities.
I have been practicing for over 40 years a type of moving meditation called BaguaZhang or 8-trigram palm, which is a walking meditation with various feet, hands, arms, and body positioning. When practiced with rapid (or sometimes slow) breathing and circular walking or stepping patterns, a great amount of qi (the Chinese word for life force) or prana (in Ayurveda), is accumulated within the body for martial, fitness or wellness applications. Conversely, the same methods can be practiced with a slower respiration rate of 6-10 BPM or even slower for more health and spiritual focused practices. I have received many benefits from these practices on mental, physical, and spiritual levels. Mentally, I feel more aware, alert, and calm throughout my day after a 20-minute session of practice. Physically, my whole body is stronger as the exercises engage many more muscle groups than conventional exercise. Spiritually, I am much more self-aware, as well as feeling more connected to nature and the energy or universal consciousness that we have access to. In today’s current norm of many coping with stress, anxiety, depression and many other psychological and physical issues, many types of exercise can be a much-needed option in lieu of pharmaceuticals or other invasive treatments. Basic walking is a great means of maintaining wellness, while advanced methods of walking such as BaguaZhang can offer benefits on many levels beyond locomotion. Studies on BaguaZhang have shown that these types of exercises were able to significantly affect the delicate balance of autonomic control, by way of increasing parasympathetic regulation while decreasing sympathetic nerve activity. Also reported were decreased were levels in serum glucose, cholesterol, body mass index and systolic blood pressure. Lastly, innate and adaptive immunity improved, as well as increased in physical fitness and physical strength for those who participated in a 10-week study (Tai, Chou, Tzeng, Wei, Su, Liu, & Kung, 2018).
Parts of the figure were drawn by using pictures from Servier Medical Art. Servier Medical Art by Servier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Tai, H.-C., Chou, Y.-S., Tzeng, I.-S., Wei, C.-Y., Su, C.-H., Liu, W.-C., & Kung, W.-M. (2018). Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (ECAM), 2018, 1–7. https://doi-org.northernvermont.idm.oclc.org/10.1155/2018/6351938
I teach and offer lectures about holistic health, stress management, qigong, tai chi, baguazhang, meditation, phytotherapy (herbs), music for healing, self-massage, and Daoyin (yoga).
I look forward to further sharing more of my message by partnering with hospitals, wellness centers, VA centers, schools on all levels, businesses and individuals that see the value in building a stronger nation through building a healthier population. I also have hundreds of FREE education video classes, lectures and seminars available on my YouTube channel at:
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