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Health/Science/Tech

The Right Way To Walk For Exercise

A group of people shown from the waist down in shorts and athletic shoes walking for exercise on a sidewalk.
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Several people walk down a sidewalk doing exercise

A survey over the summer found that with gyms closed by the pandemic, more people have turned to walking for exercise. It has a number of benefits: More energy, better sleep, weight loss, for instance. But that’s if you walk the right way.

KERA’s Sam Baker talks with Katie Resop, a physical therapist with Parkland Hospital System, about walking properly, beginning with good posture.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

For proper walking:

Good Posture helps put good pressure on your joints and your muscles and stop developing aches and pains.

  • Keeping your head up keeps you in good alignment.
  • Keeping your ears over your shoulders and your neck in a nice neutral position doesn't put a lot of added pressure on the muscles in the back of your neck
  • Keep your back nice and long with your shoulders down and pulled back so you're not slouching forward with your head forward.
  • You're tightening your muscles and your stomach as you walk. And you're stepping from your heel to your toe, not just a toe or a flat foot, when you land.

How To Keep Your Core Engaged

Tighten and engage your core by pulling the ear muscles and belly button to your spine. It can help you with your balance and your stability and release some stress and pressure on your back.

Sidewalks Vs. The Street

It kind of depends on how you feel safety-wise, but if there's not a lot of cars, street walking is great. It's usually pretty padded with pavement and a little bit level.

If the sidewalks aren’t level, you just have the risk of tripping or rolling your ankle. So you want to be really mindful of where you're placing your foot. You don't want to look down while you're walking, but kind of look ahead. So your neck is staying neutral, but your eyes are kind of gazing and seeing what's coming up.

The Right Shoe

You want to have a good supportive shoe. Don't wear like a flip-flop or a slipper. You want an actual tennis shoe. It doesn't necessarily need to give you any ankle support, but you want to have good arch support and make sure it's not too old. Some good cushion, too.

Using Weights While Walking

We suggest not using them on your ankles. That can put a lot of increased pressure on your lower extremity and your leg joints. But if you wanted to carry them on your wrists or hands or on your back for a little bit of resistance, that's okay. But not on the ankles.

What You Shouldn’t Do When Walking

  • You don't want to look down.
  • Don't take very long strides. Take good evenly-paced strides.
  • Don't roll your hips. You'll have a little bit of sway side to side, but you don't want to have the catwalk strut where you roll side to side.
  • Don't slouch.

RESOURCES:

How to Walk Properly with Good Posture

Perfecting your walking technique

How the Pandemic Is Changing Our Exercise Habits

Survey: More Americans Walk for Exercise During Pandemic

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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