Walking is the sneakiest workout of all. Stepping one foot in front of the other in order to move your body from one place to another is not only good for you on a physical and cardiological level, but it’s a trainer-approved workout modality—which means that you can practically do it at any time, any place (yes, even between your kitchen and your living room). That said, even though walking is something that feels pretty second nature, there are certain rules to keep in mind for good walking form.
According to Harvard Health, there are small (but important) tweaks to make to your walking form in order to have the most effective walk that’s also better on your body. Keep scrolling for the details on how to get the most out of your steps.
6 rules for good walking form
1. Stand tall
One of the most important factors in proper walking form is also the easiest to ignore. According to Harvard Health, a lot of people bring their hunched-over computer posture to their walks, which actually makes it more difficult for you to breathe (and can lead to back pain). Be sure to extend your spine “as if you were being lifted from the crown of your head,” says Harvard Health, adding that you should place your thumbs on your lower ribs and fingertips your hips for a form check. “As you stand up tall, notice how the distance in between increases.” The key is to maintain that length as you move.
2. Keep your eyes up
You could be putting added stress on your upper back and your neck if your eyes are pointed down, says Harvard Health. Their tip? Bring your gaze about 10 to 20 feet in front of you, which will still allow you to see any obstacles ahead while preventing tension in your upper body.
3. Bring your shoulders back and down
It’s important to relax your shoulders back and down, rather than rounded forward or up towards your ears. “Think about keeping your shoulders away from your ears to reduce upper body tension and allow for a freer arm swing,” writes Harvard Health.
4. Swing from your shoulders
When walking, it’s easy to hold tension and stress in your shoulders, which can make its way down your arms. Harvard Health suggests letting your arms swing freely from your shoulders, not your elbows, and forward and back—not across your body or higher than your chest.
5. Maintain a neutral pelvis
For proper form, the position of your pelvis should be neutral and your core should be lightly engaged. According to Harvard Health, your tailbone should not be tucked under, your belly shouldn’t be sticking out, and your back should not be over-arched.
6. Step lightly
As far as your actual steps go, your feet should be rolling from heel to toe, not landing flat-footed. “Don’t reach your leg far out in front of you—this increases impact on your joints and actually slows you down,” says Harvard Health. Try to maintain a smooth stride for the least risk of injury.
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