Just getting out and moving on your feet for 30 minutes at a time will help your health in myriad ways. But How to walk exactly? is there a right way to walk?
If you want to get faster—and get a better walking workout—then the answer is yes. It does make sense to pay attention to your walking form. There’s plenty to think about, from head to toe: how your feet hit the ground, the movement of your hips, the angle you lean, the swing of your arms, even the direction of your gaze.
Ah, but is it really? The one way, in fact, the best way, to get the most benefit from your daily walk is to relearn how to walk, suggest numerous studies and a walking expert we spoke with who says the key to making your daily walk more effective is to simply shorten your stride.
If you are able, walking is arguably the easiest and most effective way to get regular exercise for good health and fitness
Most of us likely don’t give much thought to how we walk or whether we are walking correctly. But knowing how to walk exactly with the right technique and good posture can help:
- keep your bones and joints aligned properly
- decrease wear and tear on your joints, muscles, and ligaments
- prevent back, hip, neck, and leg pain
- reduce muscles aches and fatigue
- reduce the risk of injuries
- improve your balance and stability
Walking with the right technique and posture isn’t difficult. But it does involve being mindful of how you move. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to walk exactly with good posture.
The Right Way To Walk Exactly
Having Good Form
Keep the right posture. As you walk, your chin should be up, your eyes gazing directly in front of you, your back straight, chest raised, and shoulders relaxed. It may help if you pretend you’re walking in a straight line to keep your body in the correct position.
It’ll be easier to be conscious of your body if you take a minute to warm up beforehand – and it’ll help prevent injury. Cool down, too, for the same reasons.
Don’t look down at your feet. It slows you down and can cause your back to ache. Instead, stand tall and look 10 to 20 feet in front of you. Keep your chin level to the ground, your shoulders back and down, your chest lifted, and your abs tight. This will help you increase your speed and breathe more deeply, by making it easier for air to get into your lungs.
One thing people tend to do when they walk, says Stanten, is look down. Instead, she recommends picking up your head, pulling your shoulders back and down, and looking out at the horizon or at least 10 to 20 feet in front of you. “As soon as you do that you open up your chest and breathe easier,” says Stanten.
If you’re having a hard time keeping your head up because of the sun, Stanten recommends wearing sunglasses or a hat. Holding your head in that dropped-forward position can create tension in your upper back and neck, which not only feels terrible but can cause you to cut your walk short.
Keep Your Shoulders Down and Back
Your shoulders also play a key role in your walking exactly posture and technique. If your shoulders are tense or hunched forward, it can strain the muscles and joints in your shoulders, neck and upper back.
To ensure that your shoulders are correctly aligned while you’re walking, do the following:
Bring your shoulders up high in a shrug-like motion, then let them fall and relax. Using shoulder shrugs helps relieve tightness or tension, and puts your shoulders in a natural position that allows you to move your arms easily.
Try to keep your shoulders loose and relaxed, not tensed up toward your ears or slouched forward. You can do shoulder shrugs occasionally while you’re walking to ensure that you’re keeping your shoulders relaxed and in the right position.
Engage Your Core
Your core muscles also play an important role when you’re walking, and help you move more easily.
As you take each step, focus on tightening and engaging your core muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. This can help you maintain balance and stability. It can also relieve stress and pressure on your back as you walk.
Use Your Arms
You wouldn’t run with your arms at your side, so why walk that way? It slows you down. “When you pump your arms, your legs naturally want to keep up,” says Stanten. But be mindful of how you swing your arms; form counts here, too.
The first thing you want to do is bend your arms 90 degrees and keep them bent, as if in a cast, says Stanten. “Arms are like a pendulum and shorter pendulums swing faster,” she adds.
Once you’re comfortable keeping your arms bent—and all movement is coming from your shoulders—fine tune that swing. The key is keeping your arms moving forward and back. “Think about driving your elbows back,” says Stanten. “You don’t want your arms to swing higher than chest height, out to the side, or across your body.”
Keeping the 90-degree angle, work on pulling your elbows back behind you, so your hands swing back slightly behind your hips. It might seem counterintuitive, but this backward swing of the arm will help propel you forward faster.
Take Shorter Steps
It’s a common misconception that taking longer strides helps you walk faster, and on the surface, it makes sense. However, it actually slows you down. How fast can your feet touch the ground if you’re taking huge strides? Not very. Take shorter, smaller, quicker steps, and you’ll actually get to where you’re going faster.
“When you reach your leg in front of you it acts more like a brake,” she explains. That’s because the farther your front foot is from your pelvis, the harder you’re going to have to work to pull your body forward and over that foot.
Don’t compromise your form to do so. You’ll probably have the urge to elongate your steps (it’s natural and how you likely normally walk), but resist. Keep good posture, use your arms, and your feet with fly underneath you.
Step From Heel to Toe
Maintain a steady heel-to-toe gait. This involves striking the ground with your heel first, then rolling through your heel to your toe, and pushing out of the step with your toe. Avoid flat-footed steps or striking the ground with your toes first.
As your leg swings forward, your heel should be the first part of your foot to hit the pavement. Focus on keeping your toes up as you land.
Then roll from your heel to your toes as smoothly as possible. Finally, push off with your toes to propel you forward.
The natural spring of your calf muscles will propel your body forward, keeping your momentum. This landing is natural and how your foot craves to hit the ground – deviate from it and you risk injury.
Tighten Your Abs and Butt
As you walk, flatten your back and tilt your pelvis (your hips) ever so slightly forward. Keeping everything tight and being conscious of your muscles gives you a more full-bodied workout and gets your entire body into gear for faster walking.
Each time your heel lands on the ground, squeeze your buttock muscles. Imagine that you’re using those muscles to pull your body forward over your front leg. Practice this periodically (a minute or so at a time) during your walk.
Loosen Up Your Hips
When you feel like you’re walking so fast that you want to run, it’s time to get your hips in on the action. Unfortunately, many people have tight hips from too much sitting, so get them moving a little. During your warm-ups, try the “super model walk.” Imagine there is a line between your feet. When you walk normally, your feet should be on either side of the line. But for this exercise, you want each foot to just cross over the line so you feel your hips moving more. Try it for just 30-60 seconds at a time. If you have lower back problems, this may aggravate it, so proceed with caution and stop if you notice any discomfort.
Swivel Your Hips
Now that your hips are loosened up (from practicing the super model walk), add a little swivel to help you go faster. You want your hips moving forward and backward—not side-to-side like you’re on a dance floor. Think of your legs extending all the way up to your belly button. This is not just an imaginative exercise. Some of your walking muscles do, in fact, go up into your abdomen. As your right leg steps forward, your right hip should sway forward. Then that right hip should sway back as your right leg extends behind you. Pull your belly button in, and feel your ab muscles work as you swivel your hips.
This forward-and-back hip swivel is not a big movement. Warm up first with the super model walk, then practice the hip swivel for a minute or so. Intersperse a few minutes of focused hip swiveling into your walks, but don’t spend all your time on it. Over time it will start to click and become more natural.
What Not to Do While Walking
To prevent injury or too much wear and tear on your muscles and joints, try to avoid the following habits.
- Don’t look down. Looking down at your feet or phone too frequently can put unnecessary strain on your neck.
- Don’t take very long strides. Your power comes from pushing off your rear leg. ResearchTrusted Source has shown that overstriding can put too much stress on your lower leg joints.
- Don’t roll your hips. Your hips should stay as level as possible while you walk.
- Don’t slouch. To avoid back and shoulder strain, keep your shoulders down and back when walking or standing, and focus on keeping your spine elongated.
- Don’t walk in the wrong shoes. If you’re going to be walking for more than a few minutes at a time, be sure to wear shoes that fit comfortably, have good arch and heel support, and are well cushioned to absorb the shock of your feet hitting the ground.