It’s no secret that walking is great exercise for just about everyone. All you need is a good pair of shoes and a safe place to walk, such as a treadmill or your own neighborhood. But did you know that walking with the proper form can make your workout even more effective? Whether you’re taking a short stroll or going for 5 miles a day, walking the right way can give your walk:
- Better efficiency
- Decreased injury risk
- Faster walk time
- Increased comfort while walking
- Better calorie burn
- More muscle conditioning
- Greater muscle definition
Walking Posture First
To get the right walking form and reap all these benefits, you first must ensure proper posture before you begin your walk. Your spine should be tall and elongated – no slouching. You should be able to draw a straight line from your ear to your shoulder then down to your hip, knee, and ankle. As you strive to straighten your spine, be sure not to get “sway back.” This is where you create an unnatural arch in your lower back usually resulting in pain. Straighten your spine, but also think about tucking your hips slightly. Tightening your abs will also help your lower back remain straight.
Keep Your Head Up
Not only will you see where you’re going, but you’ll avoid hurting your neck and shoulders. When we walk, many of us have a tendency to look down. Instead, focus on keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Look 15 to 20 feet out in front of you, and if you want to look for trip hazards, lower your eyes instead of your whole head.
Let Hips Swing
While walking, try to swing your hips forward, helping to propel each step. This will help you generate more power in your walk, but it might take practice as our hips are often stiff at first.
Use Your Arms
When you’re walking for exercise, don’t be afraid to let your arms swing – a lot. Many power walkers feel that keeping their arms at a 90-degree angle gives them better propulsion and momentum. It’s also a great way to tone your arms. Don’t just let them swing loosely; really engage your muscles.
Flex Your Feet
When walking fast, you might find yourself going somewhat flat-footed. But make sure your feet strike the ground with the heel first then go through a rolling motion to propel yourself forward from the ball of your foot. Make sure you’re wearing good shoes to support your arch and allow good flexibility.
Use a Comfortable Stride
Just because you’re walking faster doesn’t mean you should try a longer stride. However, doing this can cause unnecessary strain on your back and knees. It’s not energy-efficient to purposefully take longer strides. Instead, go for an increase in tempo over a longer stride.
If it seems too difficult to focus on all these elements at once, take it one thing at a time. Posture is probably the most important thing to get right, so try that first. Once you feel you’ve got good walking posture, you can begin to focus on the next piece of the puzzle. You’ll be walking more efficiently and getting better results before you know it.