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The perfect walking technique

Get the correct walking form

You'd think that walking was the most natural thing in the world and yet the walking technique of many of us leaves a lot to be desired. Learning how to walk correctly with the correct posture can go some way towards helping you reach your fitness goals through walking.

Okay, so you may be slightly incredulous at the prospect that we are going to tell you how to do an activity you’ve been doing since you were a year old, but the fact is, there is an element of good technique in walking that will enable you to go faster and further and enhance your posture.

Here's some tip to help improve your walking technique:

Head: Don’t look down when walking — look ahead (especially when walking up hills). Also make sure that you don’t crane your neck forward, a posture we often adopt when we are in a hurry.

Shoulders: When walking keep the shoulders relaxed and allow the arms to move fluidly. Try shrugging them once before you start to ensure they aren’t hunched and tense. Holding the shoulders and arms tense ‘disconnects’ the arms from the walking action, which is not what you want to do at all.

Arms: Using your arms properly during walking increases energy expenditure by 5 to 10 per cent. If you are walking at a leisurely pace, the arms should be relaxed and slightly bent. As you speed up, the arms should be bent close to 90 degrees, and they should move forward and back in a straight plane, rather than crossing the body (known as ‘chicken winging’!) Your arms will help you go faster. Don’t overdo the arm action though —  there’s no need for your hands to be swinging up level with your face. They should stop around sternum height. Hands should be relaxed but not floppy. Don’t clench your fists.

Back: The back should be straight as you walk, allowing for its natural curves — so you shouldn’t be leaning backwards or forwards. But, a slight forward lean on hill climbs is acceptable.

Abdominals: Keep your navel gently contracted to your spine as you walk — imagine you have done up buttons from your pubic bone to your bellybutton, holding in the whole area between. But remember — don’t hold your breath!

Pelvis and ribcage: Keep some distance between the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the pelvis. Imagine that you are leading from the sternum as you walk, to keep the chest open and the ribcage slightly forward. Imagine that your pelvis is a bucket of water, and you are aiming not to spill any but avoiding tipping it forward or back.

Legs: Imagine your legs start at your waist, not your groin, and really extend them with each walking step.

Knees: The knee bends as the leg pulls through to strike the ground. Don’t ‘clench’ your knees by tightening the thigh muscles — or lifting the knees too high.

Ankles and feet: Try to walk with ‘loose’ ankles. Imagine your foot is dangling rather than rigid between foot strikes. It is much easier to do this barefoot than in shoes or boots, but it is important as the ankle and knee joints work synergistically, so rigid ankles have a detrimental effect on the knees too. As for the feet, the heel strikes the ground first, and then as the body moves forward, you roll through to push off from the ball of the foot and toes.

So, when you are on your next walk — really think about your posture. I know it is a lot to think about at once, especially if you are new to the routine. But even concentrating on each particular aspect, one at a time will enhance your overall form and soon your whole body will master the perfect walking technique.

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