Walking is a great way to stay healthy, with studies indicating its effectiveness in lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease by as much as 54 and 35 percent. Reason enough to put on those walking shoes! Just be sure your walking technique is right to avoid injury and to make the most of your walk.
Walking burns anywhere between 120 and 178 calories in half an hour, if you are walking at about 3.5 mph. That is pretty good for an activity that needs no major investment and which can be made interesting with the help of company, a good walking route, or a killer music playlist.
What you should keep in mind, though, is that walking too – like any exercise – needs to be done right if you want to make the most of it. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep track of so you are walking correctly.
Do Learn To Breathe Right
If you get your breathing right, that is half the battle won. Especially if you are walking longer distances or using walking as a form of exercise.
Avoid breathing in through your mouth. Stick to inhaling through your nose, relaxing your stomach as you do this. You should be able to feel the air filling your lungs, right to the very lower sections.
To breathe out properly, feel your belly flatten as you exhale, pushing the air out of your lungs until it whooshes out of your mouth.
Do Work On Your Gait
Walking involves a sequence of movements that experts call the “Gait Cycle”. Start with a powerful pushing-away motion from the ground as your heel lifts off from the ground, followed by the rest of the foot, ending with the toes. The heel makes contact first at the new position followed by the toes.
Simply put, you push off with your toes and land on your heels. Use this “heel to toe” walk rather than an “all-at-once” flat-footed walk and you should see an increase in how fast you can walk too.
Do Look Up
It is tempting to look down as you walk, watching your feet as they stride forward. But that is not the best position as far as posture goes.
If you look up and forward, with your chin held parallel to the ground, your body will follow with the right posture. If you are walking on uneven ground, this can be difficult and even dangerous.
So choose a route that is on smooth surfaces, like a park or a proper trail even if you go into a nature reserve to walk.
Do Not Arch That Back!
Your back needs to be nice and straight, not arched either backward or forward as you walk. You can, however, lean forward from your hips just a little if you need to.
Just be sure your spine is aligned as you do this, and gently tilt your upper body so that your shoulders stay just above the hips. Your neck and shoulders need to be nice and relaxed.
Do Swing Those Arms
Walking right does not mean you have to keep those arms hinged to your sides. Feel free to let them swing as you walk – that is the natural motion your body makes as you walk. Allow them to bend a bit at the elbow, making a 90-degree angle to your body. Your hands should be nice and relaxed.
Don’t go overboard with the swinging – it needs to come naturally and that means not letting your arms flail wildly away from your body. You will also see that increasing the speed at which your arms swings forces your legs to keep pace, increasing your pace overall.
Do Get Some Hip (And Waist) Action
Your hips can move while you walk. Allow them to rotate back and forth as you take each step. Resisting this motion can actually slow you down. You should also feel your waist twist as you walk.
Do Not Forget Your Abs
If you felt your abs came into play only while you’re doing crunches or a workout at the gym, this may come as a surprise. Your abs have a role to play when you walk too.
Keep your abs engaged and taut as you walk and it will help you walk neater too. You will find yourself standing more erect, and your pelvis won’t move from one side to the other in an ungainly waddle.
Do Not Stride Too Big (Or Small)
A stride is the measurement from heel to heel that will tell you how far you go with each step you walk. It may seem like taking huge strides is more effective, but it can actually be counter-productive. Over striding, as it is called, will in fact slow you down.
To walk more effectively, pick something that comes naturally and do not try and alter it to be bigger or smaller. Do not try to match strides with someone else either. Their height, weight, and build may require a different stride length.
Do Not Skimp On Gear
You would probably spend a ton on gym gear, from special shoes to a bag for your kit, if you signed up at a local fitness center. Walking comes free, but it may be wise to invest in the right footwear to improve efficiency and protect your feet from injury.
Choose something made from material that can “breathe” like mesh to allow for air circulation. Also, choose a shoe that has a flexible toe that you can bend – this helps prevent blisters.