Most people would deign a topic about how to walk really absurd. We’re all doing it, right? Babies learn how to when they’re about 1 year old, and from then on it just becomes an automatism. So why talk about such a subject?
Well, let us ask you this: do you tend to slump? Do you constantly feel a tension in your neck and shoulders? Do you have headaches? A poor walking posture may be causing all this.
Many people suffer from things like that, so you have to change the way you think about walking. We’ll even help you out to incorporate walking into your daily routine, so read on.
The proper posture
It’s said that, in order to maintain a healthy body, you need to walk about 3 miles per day. That adds up to about 10.000 steps, but most of us just walk 1000 steps each day. That’s about 15 minutes total, and we’re only doing it when we take bathroom or lunch breaks.
But even if you did walk more miles each day, it’s important to do it right. Otherwise, a bad posture will compromise the strength and health of your backbone, hip joints, and knees.
It’s all in the hips
Almost no one thinks about how important the hips are when it comes to walking. But did you know the hips absorb almost 3 times the weight of your body when you’re walking?
And it’s important they should do that, in order to take the pressure off the knees, which are the most affected by a poor posture. So how do you do that?
- Put your hips at work. Your hips have to rotate, not stay stationary.
- Don’t use the military march. So don’t start off by throwing the front of your legs.
- Push the front leg through the back leg. The glutes are assisting muscles that should push your hips forward, helping them rotate.
- Don’t forget about moving your arms to produce a counter torque in the core area. That will lift the hips so your body doesn’t have to work against itself. That means you save energy so your walk is efficient.
In fact, a hip slump affects posture because it puts pressure on your quads and your hip joints. To prevent that, imagine you have one glass of water on each hip, and you have to be careful not to spill them when you walk.
Sit up straight
Leaning forward puts too much stress on your front muscles, which are already stressed out from sitting down too much.
You can also have a bad posture because you keep your head tilted forward. This prevents the spine from flexing, extending and rotating. As opposed to a dangerous, obsolete mentality, standing up straight requires tensing up your neck, shoulders, and especially your spine.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Your spine has to be relaxed in order to flex and help rotate the hips. Your shoulders should also be relaxed, so they don’t climb up to your ears and produce neck strains.
The only thing you have to keep straight, meaning in a straight line with your body, is the head. So remember:
- Relax your shoulders.
- Don’t lean forward.
- Don’t tense up your spine.
- Keep your head straight.
- Keep your eyes forward.
- Keep a straight line between ears, shoulders, and hips.
Optimize your feet
For people who experience troubles walking, the foot always touches the ground as one solid unit. That’s called a passive foot. But your feet have bones that support a high degree of flexibility.
Think of your foot arch too: that’s meant to keep your foot active, and your ankles open. A passive foot strike means bad posture because it minimizes the correct tracking foot-knee-hip and prevents the torque effect.
So if you keep an active foot and an open ankle, you’ll get a correct alignment from a functional standpoint. Plus, you’ll look good walking as your glutes will be elevated thanks to constant exercise.
When we’re talking about an active foot, you should move them like this:
- Place your heel on the ground first.
- Roll through the soles of your feet.
- Push your toes at the end of each movement.
How do you know you’re doing it right? You won’t hear a thing when you walk. people who aren’t using their feet properly will hear a slump-slump noise.
Get your arms moving
As we said before, your arms are really important because they assist with the hip rotation. They shouldn’t be kept still, which is pretty hard to do today when you almost always find yourself carrying a bag or some groceries.
So here’s the proper position for your arms:
- Bend them at 90˚.
- Swing them back and forth.
- Don’t cross your arms in front when walking.
- A slower swing means a lower walk.
Here’s an exercise to make sure you have a proper walking form, by using your hands correctly.
- Get a belt behind your neck, with its sides hanging symmetrically on your chest.
- Grab one side in each hand.
- Start walking and moving your arms.
- If you’re walking right, the belt should stay fixed.
- If you’re not walking right, the belt will rub on your neck.
Tips and tricks to walk better
Now that you’ve learned how to move your body properly, let’s see some dos and don’ts for correct walking.
Don’t wear high heels
These will ruin your posture, messing with the soles of your feet. Because of high heels, you won’t be able to roll your feet the right way, putting enormous pressure on the knees.
Not to mention high heels make your hips move too much while forcing your spine to contract. But if you want to wear heels, opt for square ones or for a high platform shoe.
Don’t wear flip-flops
Though you might think these are better, they’re just as dangerous. Because of their slim sole, these won’t cushion your feet at all. That will make knees absorb a lot of impact when walking, and your ankles won’t be supported at all. To know how to choose the right hiking boots, see our article on this topic.
Avoid wearing bags on just one shoulder
The best way to carry your belongings is in a backpack that distributes its weight completely on your shoulders, upper back, and lower back.
A good weight distribution is more important when you’re carrying heavier things. So it’s better to invest in a good backpack rather than spend your money on medicine for back pain.
Spend as much time as possible outside
If you’re into running or power walking, it’s better not to exercise on a treadmill. Sure, going to the gym has its advantages during bad weather. But walking on grass, or even dirt is better because these aren’t perfectly even.
That means your muscles will be exercised better, as they’ll do the movements they evolved for. Apart from that, your calorie burn will improve, and your stress levels will decrease thanks to an increase in oxytocin levels.
Walk up and down
It’s better to find yourself a hill when walking, even though the elevation isn’t that considerable. Climbing up and down means your quads, shins, and calves will be stronger.
And since we’ve already talked about how the front muscles are often overly exerted, making them stronger means they’ll cope better during your walks and other activities.
How to include walking in your routine
Walking more is a great form of exercise. It increases endurance, it activates the whole body, makes your heart and lungs healthier. That’s because moving increases your heart rate, improving blood circulation and moving more oxygen through your body.
So basically, you can even reduce the risk of cellular death, in order to look and feel young for longer. The steps to incorporate walking in your routine start with:
Getting a pedometer
There have been studies made which show that people who use a pedometer will increase their daily number of steps by about a third. That happens because you know exactly how much you’re walking, which motivates you to achieve more.
Getting the right shoes for the job
If you don’t wear comfortable shoes, you’ll put too much pressure on your knees and ankles. A nice pair of shoes will help you walk more efficiently, and improve your posture. That way, you’ll walk for longer and with no stress to your feet.
The best shoes:
- Help your stability.
- Keep your legs straight.
- Cushion the soles of your feet and your heels.
- Support your ankles so you don’t sprain them.
- Can be found in athletic stores and are manufactured specifically for sports.
Getting your warm-up done
Since walking isn’t a very difficult exercise, you don’t have to strain yourself with an extensive warm-up. Instead, just walk at a slower, more comfortable pace for the first few minutes.
So if by the mid portion of your walk you’re going to give 100%, your warm-up should start at about 50%. You know you’re there if you can hold a conversation with someone else, or if you can do basic math problems.
When you put all your effort and concentration in exercising more vigorously, your rational thinking will be a bit blocked. Not to mention you’ll find yourself gasping for air, so you won’t be able to speak.
Here are some other good warm-up ideas:
- Get a total body warm-up.
- Do some arm circles first, your arms have to do some work on their own.
- Do shoulder rolls, back and forward. But do them slowly, so you won’t strain a muscle.
- Stretch out your neck, by bending it forward and backward, left and right, then rotating it.
- Do some side leans to warm up your core.
- Start with some slow high knees to make sure your joints are warmed up.
- Make sure you keep your core straight, with your belly button pulled in.
- Continue with some slow march in place, moving your arms too.
- Do some jumping jacks to raise your heart rate a bit.
Doing your walk
After you’ve done your warm up, you can increase the intensity of your walk. Your pace should now be about 80%, but keep up a good form. You’ll know you’re at 80% if you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation with someone.
After about 5-10 minutes, you can increase your pace at 100% for the next 5-10 minutes. Make sure you put in small, fast steps instead of big ones that might make you lose your balance. Next, you should slow down progressively before your cool down.
You can also walk by following an HIIT structure. High-intensity interval training means you’ll have intervals of very intense work, followed by intervals of very low-intensity work. So you can walk at 100% for 45 seconds, then at 30% for the next 15 seconds to maximize your calorie burn and optimize your heart rate.
Getting your cool down and stretch
After you’ve slowed down your heart rate with a slower walk, it’s time to do a cool down. This is meant to stretch your muscles so they’ll be less sore the next day. Plus, tense muscles increase the risk of injuries and sprains.
We recommend holding these movements for roughly 30 seconds:
- Quad stretch. Sit up straight on one leg, then grab the foot of the other leg behind you.
- Calf stretch. Bend one knee so that your other leg is straight, and pushing through the heel. Reach to the toes of your straight leg, while flexing them toward you. You can even grab your toes if you can reach that far.
- Hamstring stretch. Roll your back so that your fingertips are pointed as closely to the ground as possible while keeping your knees straight.
- Shoulder stretch. Find an open wall and press your palms on it, so that your head falls between the shoulders. Keep one leg in front of the other, and change their position about half way through the stretch.
- Back stretch. Get on your hands and knees, rolling up and down through your spine. This is called a “Cat to camel”, and it’s a yoga pose. You can also do a “Child’s Pose” by getting on your knees and bending your upper body over the knees, so your arms are straight in front of you.
Other ways to exercise walking
- Make walking your first way of getting from one point to the other. So give up your car or bus, and get some exercise it.
- If you can’t walk to and from work/ school because it’s too far away, park your car about 15 minutes away. That way, you’ll walk at least 30 minutes each day.
- Pace around your office, so you stretch your legs at least 5 minutes every hour.
- Go for a walk during your lunch break.
- Meet your friends for a walk in the park or a walk in the mall instead of meeting for a beer.
- Take your kids on an adventure. Walk with them often, and make each walk sound like a journey to discover something new. That’s sure to help you all enjoy your walks, not to mention create awesome memories.
- Go for a walk after dinner. You’ll feel less fool, and you’ll get some fresh air before going to sleep.
Walk this way
When it comes to the proper way to walk, there are many things you can do, but the most important of all is to get up off the chair and start doing it.
The rest just comes on its own, if you’re consistent and understand walking as more than just a form of exercise, and more as a lifestyle. To learn how to hike correctly, check out our piece on this timely topic.
So, where are you going to go next? How will you fit walking into your daily routine? The comments are right below.