1.Stand upright as you walk.
Although everyone has their own unique, individual gait, certain common behaviors can improve almost everyone’s walking experience. Chief among these is your posture. As you walk, keep your head upright, your back straight, and your chin up. Maintaining this posture will keep your spine straight and help you breathe by taking pressure off your diaphragm.
Resist the urge to hunch or slouch as you walk. Over time, bad posture can lead to back pain, a stiff neck, and even more serious maladies.
2.Keep your shoulders pulled back, but relaxed.
Even though the majority of the muscles used to walk are in your legs and core, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the posture of your upper body. Keeping your shoulders in a relaxed, pulled-back position serves several purposes. It maintains a stable, “vertical column” of support while you walk stretching from your neck to your hips. This works in conjunction with a straight back and an elevated chin to minimize the strain on the back as you walk, preventing injury in the long-term. Also, it’s simply a good habit to get into to prevent slouching, which, as previously noted, can result in shoulder pain and strain.Finally, pulling your shoulders back makes you look good by projecting confidence and strength. This is a small but not insignificant point – why look mediocre while you walk when you can look great and protect yourself from injury in the process?
3.Swing your arms as you walk.
For most, this should be second nature. As you walk, let your arms hang naturally at your side. Your arms should begin to swing in small arcs as you start to walk – the quicker you walk, the larger the arcs. Moving your arms is a natural part of walking – it’s been found to increase the efficiency of your stride, allowing you to walk farther on the same amount of metabolic energy than you would while keeping your arms still.So, don’t be afraid to swing your arms as you walk. Don’t worry – you won’t look like a power walker.If weather permits, try to keep your hands out of your pockets. Doing so allows you to receive the benefits of swinging your arms, meaning you’ll be able to walk faster and farther than you would otherwise.
4.Take a moment to stretch before you walk.
Though walking isn’t as intense a form of exercise as running, weightlifting, rock climbing, and other forms of exercise, injury is still a possibility. To lessen the chance of injury from walking and to improve your flexibility, stretch before and/or after you exercise. Taking a moment to stretch your legs and arms for 5 – 10 minutes before you walk will make walking more comfortable and can keep you in better shape in the long run.Note that the benefits of stretching (and the consequences of not stretching) are increased if you suffer from a chronic condition like back pain or arthritis.
Because your legs are the primary muscles used in the walking process, you’ll want to prioritize lower body stretches, though core stretches and even upper body stretches can also provide benefits, especially if you’re prone to pain in these areas. Below are just a few types of stretches you may want to perform:
Standing thigh stretches
Hamstring stretches, like the downward dog yoga pose
Back stretches, like the cat and crocodile yoga poses
5.Aim to gradually increase your speed and distance over time.
The benefits of starting a walking regimen when you previously had no exercise routine will quickly become apparent – your mood will likely elevate, you’ll feel more energetic, and you may even lose weight (assuming you don’t begin to eat more to compensate for the energy you use while exercising). To increase these benefits, feeling even better, having more energy, and potentially losing more weight, you’ll want to increase the distance you walk, the speed at which you walk, or, best of all, both. Treat walking like you would any other exercise routine, gradually increasing your burden over time, and you’ll be surprised at the changes in how you look and feel.