National Walking Month is dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness of the benefits of walking. For four weeks Living Streets is encouraging people across the UK to enjoy walking their way, be it walking to work, to school, walking the dog or just walking for pleasure.
Roy, our Alexander Technique teacher shares his tips on how to walk well.
Walking is a great way to combine a workout with an enjoyable activity with many benefits. It is a relatively injury-free way to burn up calories and get into shape. With regular walking you reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and can even help relieve and prevent constipation. It is also a weight-bearing exercise so it will strengthen your bones and offset conditions such as osteoporosis. However, it’s really important to have a relaxed, upright walking style to prevent aches and pain.
First of all, try this exercise to get an idea how you can reduce stress on your knees (also works for running.)
- Sit on the edge of a table so your lower legs hang over the edge.
- Bring back your left leg until it is underneath the table and let it go so it swings forward. It’s important to let it go and not to swing it forward yourself.
- Let alternate legs swing with minimal effort and visualise each leg as a pendulum.
Now try a similar experiment with your arms.
- Stand and visualise a line from the tip of your shoulders through the biceps, down the arm to your thumbs or just think ‘long arms’.
- As with the legs, see if you can get your arms swinging straight and by your side with minimal effort without lifting your shoulders.
The objective of the two exercises above are to give you the sensation of movement using less effort. So when taking a relaxed walk now think about the steps below: If you're walking to raise your heart rate higher, note no. 4 below.
- First locate your hips joints. Stand and use your fingers to trace the bony parts at the front of the pelvis above each leg. Walk your fingers down toward the legs until you find the dent (if you do a shallow squat you will feel where the legs meet the pelvis). This is where your legs should swing from.
- Bend your knee and let your lower leg swing through as it did when sitting on the table in the first exercise. As your foot lands imagine you’re stroking the ground with a heel to ball of the foot action.
- Think ‘walk tall’ but avoid tightening your lower back and pushing out your chest. Relax and let your arms swing from your shoulders and legs swing from your hip joints. Check you’re not lifting your shoulders even when walking at speed.
- If you want to increase speed, be careful not to tighten up with the effort. Just let your arms swing a little quicker and your legs will catch up without any sense of extra effort. Try it - it really works!
For more information on the Alexander Technique please click here, or for information on National Walking month see www.livingstreets.co.uk