If you’re like me, you probably don’t notice it, but you take hundreds of steps a day. Those steps provide you with numerous benefits — the health benefits from physical activity, the social benefits from walking with friends, and the mental benefits from taking time for yourself, to name a few.
But if your feet don’t hit the ground properly, you could be missing out on the full potential exercise benefits of walking, AND you may ultimately be setting yourself up for unnecessary pain.
Walking for exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. It’s less stress on your body than running or jumping and can actually strengthen your muscles and bones.
But according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, nearly eight in ten American adults report having a foot ailment at some point in their life. Ouch!
So today, I share with you tips to master the art of walking.
First, let’s start with your stance, working our way from the top down.
Your head should be up with your gaze straight ahead, not looking down.
Your chest should be lifted and open with your back straight and your stomach muscles slightly tightened and engaged — no slouching or arching your back. Doing this will allow you to breathe more easily and deeply.
Your neck, shoulders, and spine should be relaxed and form a straight line. If you were to look in a mirror and hold a ruler mid-way through your body, your side view should show your ears directly in line with your shoulders, hips, and knees.
Next, let’s talk about your gait, which should be smooth and even as you roll your foot from your heel to your toe.
Heels. Your heel should be the first point of contact with the ground. When this happens, your toes should be up to prevent your foot from hitting the floor hard. If you hear a slapping sound as you walk, you may be landing your whole foot too abruptly on the ground.
Midfoot. As your weight transfers from your heel, the outside of your midfoot should make contact with the ground.
Forefoot. As your weight shifts from your midfoot to your toes (aka your forefoot), push off with your toes as the heel of your other foot makes contact with the ground. This transfers the weight of your body to the other foot and repeats the process.
Arms. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, your arms should swing freely at your sides, not across your body. To add more cardio to the movement, you can pump your arms. It’s natural for your legs to move in sync with your arms, so the faster you pump them, the quicker your gait will be.
We should also touch on your breathing which will vary depending on your pace and stride. Some find the following method works for them. Practice and make adjustments to see what leaves you feeling the most comfortable.
Inhale for three steps then exhale for the next three while keeping a steady pace. As you walk faster, you may find you take more steps with each inhale and exhale. For example, your gait may become four steps with each inhale and four steps with each exhale.
Breathe in through your nose and draw the air into your belly. Exhale out through your mouth, emptying the air from your belly. You may find this also helps prevent dry mouth as you walk.
Relax and Enjoy
Finally, the most important point to remember is to relax and enjoy yourself. The best exercise and activity is the one you’ll stick with so make walking fun, and you’re more likely to stick with it.
Your feet are comprised of a complex structure of bones (nearly a quarter of all the bones in your body!), ligaments, joints, etc. 26 bones, 10 tendons, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles to be precise. And they take the brunt of the impact as you take a step.
What about you?
When was the last time you walked for exercise? Do you like to walk with others for social interaction or on your own for relaxation or meditation? Let me know in the comments.
Disclosure: Always speak with your doctor before starting any form of exercise or if you have questions about orthotics or other foot pain solutions.
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