By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah
Many of us just start walking and don’t put much thought into the right form and technique. Our posture while being physically active is critical to our health and has many benefits. Don’t get me wrong, you also have to have good posture while not being physically active but I have already discussed general posture in a previous article but will talk about it again soon. So how can the right posture help you while walking? Good technique and form can reduce stress and pressure on the muscles and joints leading to less pain. Besides less pain, good form also helps you use your energy efficiently, improve your lung health, blood circulation and digestion. It can also strengthen your core and better your overall balance.
Before getting into the details remember that you always have to warm up before a session of physical activity even when it comes to walking. Warming up before walking usually consists of around five minutes of slow-paced walking (or for the more advanced light jogging) followed by dynamic stretching to warm up those muscles and to prepare them for the upcoming activity. Dynamic stretching is stretching with movement compared to the static stretching which you do during your cool down.
Once you have warmed up you are ready to start walking with the right form and technique. To do so, follow the following guidelines:
1. Stand tall by trying to elongate the space between your lower ribs and hips. Keep a neutral spine not letting yourself hunch forward or lean back.
2.Keep your eyes up and keep your gaze at about 10-20 feet ahead of you. To reduce stress on your upper back and neck, do not look down at your feet, the floor or at a mobile phone.
3. Pull your shoulders back and keep them down, loose and relaxed. Swing from your shoulders and not your elbows, but do not keep your arms out (like chicken wings). Allow your arms to gently swing while swinging one arm forward (not across your body) as you move the opposite leg forward.
4. Engage your core and even your glutes while maintaining a neutral pelvis aligned to your neutral spine. With each step you take, focus on the tightening of your abs and glutes and feel those muscles being engaged and activated.
5. Step lightly and roll your feet from heel to toe. This helps reduce the impact on your joints and allows you to use your energy efficiently. Feel your foot push off the ground and end with your toes.
6. Remember to not look down, not to take very long strides, not to roll your hips or slouch, not to let your toes hit the ground first and make sure you are wearing the correct shoes (comfortable and the right-fit, walking shoes).
To conclude, you might think that walking does not benefit your health, but boy are you wrong. Walking is one of the greatest types of cardio but you have to challenge your cardiovascular system enough, especially if you have joint issues or injuries. You have to walk at a pace and intensity that increases the demands on your mind, heart, lungs and muscles. You can always gauge your intensity by monitoring how easy it is to talk. If you can talk comfortably then you might not be pushing yourself enough. If you are unable to talk then you might be going at too fast a pace, but if you are enjoying that intensity, maybe increase it to a light jog. Find the middle ground where you are talking comfortably but with a bit of breathlessness. So, don’t just walk aimlessly, walk with a purpose and don’t forget to cool down and stretch.
*The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.
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