Do you know how to walk? You might think this is a crazy question. Of course, you know how to walk. You’ve been doing it since you were a one-year-old, but the truth is many people have bad walking techniques, which is fine when you’re in your 20s, 30s, even 40s. However, once you get a little bit older you suddenly start feeling all sorts of aches and pains, or you have injuries that you have accumulated through life, and these start to hurt. Before you know it, you have a limp or a pain in your foot or ankle and that pain then travels up your leg to your hip, and wow, now you’ve got back problems. Needless to say, if you want to safeguard your health, aim to keep your weight within a healthy range, eat well and do a combination of cardio and weight-resistant exercise … and also walk properly!
All that stuff is easier said than done – exercising, staying slim and good eating – no one is perfect all the time, but walking right is something you can do every day! So I’m going to start going through some instructions on how to walk properly however first I want to ask you to think about how your posture is, what are your arms doing when you walk and how your feet land.
You need to keep in mind how important it is to walk well. Walking properly can:
- improve your balance and stability and stop you from falling
- keep your bones and joints aligned properly
- prevent wear and tear on your joints, muscles, and ligaments
- prevent back, hip, neck, and leg pain
- reduce muscles aches and fatigue
The basics of good walking
1. Place your feet down heel to toe
You may think you are already doing this, but just for fun why don’t you get someone to take a video of you walking on your mobile phone. I did, and was amazed to find that sometimes I stomp! If you video yourself walking, I think you will be surprised at what you see. You will see habits you never knew you had. You might swagger like a cowboy or walk on tip-toe like a ballerina. Once you see a video of yourself walking, you will understand why I was motivated to blog about good walking techniques!
The experts have found that the majority of people forget to walk heel to toe. Ideally you need to step onto your heel, it hits the ground first then you roll onto the ball of your foot and finally you lift your heel off the ground with your big toe as your weight shifts onto your other foot. This method will prevent injury to your foot and ankle, and help you keep your balance and stability.
2. Stand up tall, don’t let your head or shoulders slouch
Your head needs to be up and looking forward, but not stretched forward. Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles just a little, but relax your neck and shoulders. Why not take a look at people walking well on YouTube? Just search for ‘how to walk properly’. Quite a few helpful videos will come up.
3. Swing your arms as you walk
You don’t want to look like a Thunderbird puppet while walking with your hands held out in front as though connected to invisible strings. Your arms should be beside you, slightly bent and they need to swing slightly as you walk. Also your hips should move a little when you walk, but not rotate to the side.
4. Length of step
The length of stride is a personal thing, but smaller steps are more efficient than super long ones. But be aware that you can strain your muscles if you try taking a longer or shorter stride than usual. If you’re looking to increase your speed, try taking more steps per minute to prevent injury. Walking impacts your spine, so go easy on yourself. Make changes gradually, but always be mindful to walk well.
5. Exercises to prevent falls
I also believe that it is never too early to start doing exercises to strengthen your feet and legs to prevent falls. Too often we don’t start doing these until we’ve fallen or torn some crucial ligament in a calf or ankle. The truth is that if we do prevention exercises early we can prevent falls or ligament damage. Here are some simple exercises to get you started. You can do these in your own home.
Heel raises: Stand behind a chair, holding the back of the chair with both hands. Position your feet hip-width apart. Lift up on your toes, for around the count of five. Hold. Lower your heels to the floor. Repeat 10 times. Slowly increase your count to ten.
Standing side leg lift: Stand straight behind a chair, holding the back of the chair with both hands. Slowly lift your right leg straight out to the side about 20cm off the floor. Hold. Return to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. A more challenging exercise is to run your foot up the inside of your calf muscle until your knee is poking out in front of you, now pivot your knee 45 degrees to the side then pivot your knee back out in front and run your foot back down your inside calf. Repeat each side 10 times.
Standing hamstring curls: Stand up straight behind a chair, holding the back with both hands. Extend your right leg behind you with your toes touching the floor. Bend your right knee and try to bring the heel to your right buttock. Hold. Slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Once you can do these exercises easily, the next challenge is to do them without the support of a chair. Lunges are also a great way to strengthen your legs, as is bicycle riding.
This is all simple advice, but never take your mobility for granted. As they say, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.