Most individuals don’t think about how they walk or whether they are walking with the correct posture. Knowing how to walk with the proper technique and posture can help:
- Ensure the bones and joints maintain proper alignment.
- Decrease abnormal wear and tear on the joints, muscles, and ligaments from awkward positions.
- Prevent neck, back, hip, and leg pain.
- Reduce muscle aches and fatigue.
- Reduce injury risk.
- Improve balance, stability, and mobility.
Walking with the correct technique and posture is not complicated but requires individuals to stay aware of standing and moving.
Walking is a physical activity that involves the whole body. It helps to focus on each part of the body to understand how to walk correctly fully.
- Focus on standing straight with the chin parallel to the ground and ears aligned above the shoulders.
- Imagine the head being pulled gently upwards by an invisible string attached to the sky/ceiling.
- This can help prevent dropping the head into the chest while walking.
- Maintain eyes forward and gaze.
- Focus on an area about 10 to 20 feet ahead when walking.
Straighten and Extend the Spine
- Focus on extending the spine while walking.
- Avoid slouching, hunching, or leaning forward. This stresses the back muscles.
Relaxed Shoulders Down and Back
The shoulders have a role with posture and technique. Shoulders that are tense or hunched forward can strain the muscles and joints in the shoulders, upper back, and neck. When walking, perform the following:
- Raise the shoulders as high as they will go in a shrugging motion, then let them fall and relax.
- Shoulder shrugs will help relieve tightness or tension.
- This places the shoulders in a natural position that allows for easy arm movement.
- Keep the shoulders loose and relaxed.
- Shoulder shrugs while walking can help ensure that the shoulders are relaxed and in the correct position.
Swing the Arms
Walking correctly can be helped by gently swinging the arms back and forth at the sides.
- Make sure to swing the arms from the shoulders, not from the elbows.
- Do not swing the arms across the body.
- Do not swing the arms up too high.
- Keep them around the midsection, not around the chest.
Engage the Body’s Core
The core muscles have an essential role and help the body move with ease.
- Focus on tightening and engaging the core muscles by clenching the belly button toward the spine.
- This helps maintain balance and stability.
- It helps relieve stress and pressure on the back when walking.
Step Heel to Toe
- Step in a steady heel-to-toe gait.
- The foot should hit the ground with the heel first.
- Then roll through the heel to the toes.
- Push out of step with the toes.
- Avoid flat-footed steps and/or landing with the toes first.
To prevent injury or overuse wear and tear on the muscles and joints, it is recommended to avoid the following:
Looking down too frequently
- Looking down at the ground or phone too much places unnecessary strain on the neck.
Do not take long strides
- The power comes from pushing off of the rear leg.
- Overstriding places stress on the lower leg joints.
Rolling or swinging the hips
- The hips should stay as level as possible.
- This will help avoid back and shoulder strain.
Wearing the wrong shoes
- Wear the right shoes when walking for more than a few minutes.
- Shoes should fit comfortably.
- Provide arch and heel support.
- Well-cushioned to absorb the shock of the feet hitting the ground.
Benefits of Correct Posture
The physical and mental benefits of proper posture and optimal walking technique include:
Alleviation of muscle and joint pain
- Walking properly will avoid placing unnecessary stress and strain on the muscles, ligaments, and joints.
- Walking with incorrect/awkward posture can wear out the muscles faster, whereas walking with proper form helps conserve energy.
- Walking with the shoulders back allows the lungs to fill and expand fully. This makes breathing more manageable and efficient.
- When the body is properly aligned and moving correctly, it’s easier for the blood to circulate throughout the body.
- When the internal organs are not compressed from awkward postures, the body digests food more efficiently and increases blood flow to the digestive tract.
Enhanced core strength
- The abdominal muscles gain strength and power from walking correctly.
- Keeping the head straight, not bending forward, can help reduce neck strain, leading to reduced headaches.
- Correct posture improves balance and less prone to falling.
Correct gait and posture are not complicated but do take some practice to develop healthy habits. For any issues with gait or back problems, talk to a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor about technique improvement.
Ten-Thousand Steps Speed and Distance
Before deciding to put in the walking distance and time, speed also needs to be considered. Calories burned from walking depend on the intensity, or speed, of the walk. The average walking speed is about 3 miles per hour and the number of calories burned depends on walking speed.
- A leisure 30-minute walk at two mph yields a burn of 102 calories
- Moderate intensity of 3.5 mph in the same 30-minute walk increases to burn 157 calories.
- The faster the pace, the greater the heart rate.
- The more calories are burned covering the same distance.
- However, reaching 10,000 steps can almost entirely be irrelevant if not careful with a stable caloric intake.
Buldt, Andrew K et al. “The relationship between foot posture and lower limb kinematics during walking: A systematic review.” Gait & posture vol. 38,3 (2013): 363-72. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.01.010
Common posture mistakes and fixes. (2019). nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/common-posture-mistakes-and-fixes/
The cost of being on your toes. (2010). Archive.unews.utah.edu/news_releases/the-cost-of-being-on-your-toes/
Hackford, Jessie et al. “The effects of walking posture on affective and physiological states during stress.” Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry vol. 62 (2019): 80-87. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.09.004
Perfecting your walking technique. (n.d.). health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/perfecting-your-walking-technique
Proper walking technique. (n.d.). mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/proper-walking-technique/img-20007670
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