- The secret of walking properly
- This one technique could end back, hip or knee soreness and stiffness
- An easier way to get fit without the sweat, stress and discomfort
There are some basic things we all know how to do.
Like breathing, eating, sleeping…
And walking, right?
Surely, we all know how to walk?!
After all, most of us have been doing it since we were toddlers.
But what if most of us have learned it the wrong way?
This was an interesting idea that caught my eye this week as I scoured the media for health stories.
It was a Guardian piece on Joanna Hall, a fitness expert who used to appear on troubled TV show This Morning.
She believes that a lot of aches and pains in your hips, knees and lower back could come from a poor walking technique.
We tend to pull ourselves forward with our front foot, which not only shortens our stride but also places excessive strain on our hip flexors and knees.
Interestingly, studies suggest that some common back problems among humans may be linked to spinal characteristics inherited from our knuckle-walking ancestors.
So, we march along in a clumsy tug-of-war, with each foot desperately yanking the body forward.
This continual stress overworks our hip flexors and knees and, in Hall’s view, ruins the flow of our stride.
Most of us tend to walk this way… by stepping directly into the space ahead of us.
But Hall wants us to shift our perspective and thinking about pushing away from the space behind us.
She has a whole range of exercises in her ‘WalkActive’ programme, but this one seems to be the defining principle – so if you can correct this one simple thing, you could find a reduction in those niggling aches and pains.
I was intrigued by this because I’ve had my own low back and sciatic problems lately.
For me, the problem is sitting too often, and for too long.
It’s one of the common health issues that affect a lot of writers, designers and office workers who have to be at a desk all day. And also those people who drive a lot, like cabbies or delivery workers.
Hall says that the way we sit can significantly impact our walking style, too. For instance, favouring one hip over the other while sitting at a desk or in a car can subtly affect our walking gait. These habits can contribute to imbalances and lurching when we walk.
So it could be that your hip, knee or lower back pain is actually being caused by the way you sit and move.
But even if you’re feeling pain-free, there’s still a good reason to be more mindful about the way you walk.
An easier way to get fit without the sweat,
stress and discomfort
Joanna Hall is also one of those experts who believes that good, daily walking is ALL you need in order to get fit.
While it can complement other exercises like yoga and Pilates, improving your walk can help you stay healthy, even if you don’t EVER engage in any other form of physical activity.
So, forget what you’ve been told about needing to run, pump iron, or sweat buckets every day to be healthy.
The evidence says otherwise. For instance…
- A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at over 32,000 women and found that brisk walking can lower the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
- Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California conducted a study on over 6,000 middle-aged men and women. They discovered that brisk walking for at least 150 minutes per week actually increased lifespan. Surprisingly, walking had a similar effect on reducing mortality as more intense exercises like running or sports.
- A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that walking caused similar reductions in body fat and waist circumference as more intense exercise.
The key lies in learning some mindful walking techniques that maximize efficiency and minimise stress on your body.
Ten ways to get the most benefit from your daily walk
- Find your pace: Walk at a pace that challenges you, but still allows you to hold a conversation without gasping for breath. A brisk pace is generally recommended, where you feel slightly exerted but can still maintain good form.
- Focus on posture: Maintain proper posture while walking. Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and gaze forward. Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button towards your spine. This helps improve balance and stability while walking.
- Take comfortable steps: Stride naturally and take comfortable steps. Avoid overreaching or taking too-short steps. Find a length that feels comfortable and allows for a smooth and efficient walking motion.
- Engage your arms: Swing your arms naturally as you walk, keeping them bent at a 90-degree angle. The arm swing gives you momentum and helps you maintain a balanced gait.
- Wear proper footwear: Invest in a good pair of walking shoes that provide support and cushioning.
- Warm up and cool down: Prior to starting your brisk walk, spend a few minutes warming up with some light stretching or dynamic movements. After your walk, cool down with a few minutes of slower-paced walking and stretching exercises.
- Gradually increase intensity: If you’re looking to challenge yourself or progress in your fitness journey, gradually increase the intensity of your walks over time. You can do this by increasing your pace, incorporating intervals of faster walking or incorporating hilly terrain.
- Stay hydrated: Drink water before, during, and after your walks, especially in this warm weather.
- Vary your routes: To keep things interesting and prevent boredom, explore different routes and terrains. Walk in parks, nature trails, or urban areas. Varying your routes also helps engage different muscle groups and prevents overuse injuries.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after your walks. If you experience pain or discomfort, take a break, modify your routine, or consult a healthcare professional if needed.
I know it seems strange to think in so much detail about an everyday task like walking but try it and see what happens!
Yours as ever