To get more steps while avoiding injuries, make sure you’re using proper walking posture! You’ve probably thought about your shoes, gear, and walking route, but did you know that your walking posture could be one of the biggest factors holding you back? Good posture helps walkers avoid added strain on their neck and back, decreasing the risk of soreness and injury. It also makes you look (and feel) happier and more approachable. Keep your head level, shoulders back, and arms in the proper position and you’ll get more steps (and look like a walking pro as well)!
Walking with proper form may help walkers experience reduced pain in their knees, neck, back and ankles. If you’re not using proper form, however, you may end up suffering from increased pain in those areas. Walking with bad posture can even affect your outlook on life! Fix your posture with these tips, and you can walk more, have better interactions on your walk and feel great from walking!
What Is Proper Walking Posture?
Proper walking posture is a combination of active effort and mindfulness. Before you can fix your posture, you have to be aware and mindful of your walking form. As you walk, breathe in and out slowly and look for sensations that may accompany bad walking form. The most common signal is pain or discomfort.
What does proper walking form look like? Imagine someone with their chin parallel to the ground, shoulders drawn back slightly and centered above their center of gravity, and their eyes facing forward. It also includes stepping in stride, but not throwing yourself off-balance. If your natural stride is short, that’s okay. If your stride is longer than 3 “normal” steps, that’s okay too! Find the stride that your body naturally wants to take, rather than trying to take longer or shorter steps.
Proper walking posture may not be comfortable at first, especially if you haven’t been using it. It’s actually more important to walk with proper form than it is to push yourself to walk farther with an improper walking motion. Once you get the proper form, however, you’ll feel much better. Of course, if you feel new pain or soreness after changing your posture, think about consulting a doctor or asking a friend to watch your posture. They can help determine if something is wrong!
Why Use Proper Walking Posture?
When you exercise, why not maximize the benefits you get from walking? You wouldn’t want to do half pushups or half jumping jacks, so why cheat while you’re walking? Using proper posture has been shown to:
- Reduce pain
- Increase happiness
- Improve your perception of self
- Improve approachability
Proper posture ensures that your muscles and joints are all in proper alignment. It helps ensure you’re using your strongest walking muscles, and that your joints are not being stressed in ways that are not optimal. Walking with good posture also just feels better and lets you walk farther, faster while leaving you less tired!
How to Walk With Proper Walking Posture
We’ll go body part by body part and cover what your form should look like!
- Focus your eyes forward (don’t look down)
- Your chin should be parallel to the ground
- Keep your shoulders over your center of gravity (not too far back or forward)
- Let your shoulders move naturally as you step, but keep them pulled backward a little bit
- Try not to slouch, which can bring your head forward, down and out of position
- Stand straight up as you walk, do not lean forward or backward
- Your torso can twist some as you walk – it’s ok!
- Lightly tense your core muscles as you walk
- For an extra core-toning workout, try alternating periods of moderate clenching and light clenching of your abs
- Keep your arms bent, at not more than a 90-degree angle. Let them swing straight back and forth naturally as you walk
- Do not let your arms cross in front of your body
- Keep your arms close to your body, don’t let them swing out and away from you
- Gently clench the glute corresponding with your back leg as you push off
- Place your front foot near your center, push with your back leg
- Roll your feet forward as you step, don’t just step flat down
- Be aware if you’re striking the ground hard with your heel or toe. Unlike running, you don’t need hard impact on the ground as you walk.
How To Know If You’re Doing It Right?
When you’re walking in proper form, a few things will happen. Your eyes should naturally focus about 20 feet ahead of you. Your shoulders will be laid back and mostly relaxed and your arms won’t cross in front of your body. Your core muscles will also be slightly tensed. As you walk, you’ll find your hands will be slightly closed, but not clenched like a fist. Clenching your fist can make you tense and elevate your blood pressure, which is not a beneficial effect.
If any particular body part is especially sore after walking, or if you notice new pain, try to focus on that area when walking. A little bit of soreness after walking is normal, especially if you recently changed up your routine. If you notice that your ankles, calves, knees or back is especially sore after walking, there may be a posture issue with that part.
Do be aware that if you naturally slouch or have poor posture, you may feel a little pain and soreness after improving your posture. That’s ok! If you’re not sure about some new soreness you’re experiencing, talk to your doctor to make sure you haven’t injured anything. After some practice, however, you’ll naturally adjust to your better posture and you’ll find it easier than ever to get your steps.
Pace Yourself: Walking Speed Impacts Your Results
When walking, it is extremely important to monitor your speed. One of the best ways to ruin a walk is to run out of steam before you finish your route. Getting tired is one of the easiest ways to start to lose your good walking posture. The more tired you are, the more likely you are to slouch and use bad form. This can lead to soreness and injury, as you try to push yourself to finish your walk. Bad posture can put strain on your joints and muscles, while good posture puts your joints and muscles in the strongest position to get you your steps.
Building up to more brisk walks will help to further develop your muscles and increase your stamina over time.
- Start slow – both in distance and speed. Aim for 50% of the distance you think you can walk.
- Raise that expectation by 10% per week until you reach your limits or hit your goals
- Once you’ve found your optimal walking distance, try varying your walking speed or elevation for a more intense workout (if you want to).
- Find your optimal walking speed, just like you did with distance.
- Continue walking and tweak your routine based on what matters most.
As you follow these steps, make sure that you maintain good posture the entire time! It’s great to push yourself to get more steps, but be mindful of your posture and when it starts to slip. Once you’ve lost your good posture, you’re at greater risk of injury and soreness, so consider cutting your walk short and building up to a full walk of great posture!
Once you’ve mastered these tips, you should expand outside your comfort zone and let us know what worked in the comments! If you’d like to share your personal bests, we encourage you to tell the story behind achieving them as well!
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