The previous Great NEWS post asked How Happy, in Harmony and Healthy Are You and today we cover Walking Well or Walking Woes. What most people are not fully aware of is how their alignment, posture and stride while walking can have a positive or negative impact on their entire anatomy and physiology. Most people walk to receive a benefit when how they walk may actually be doing more harm than good to parts of their body. Read on to determine if you are in the minority Walking Well or Walking Woes majority making the common mistakes.
Most people are aware that walking is a fun and positive activity and excellent form of exercise. While walking daily on a recent transatlantic cruise, in Barcelona and London it was easy to observe thousands of people walking. While it may sound a bit unusual to look at people’s alignment and posture while walking it is part of my wellness services and wired into my unconscious mind.
Unfortunately 8 out of 10 walkers observed exhibited some clear sign or trait of potential walking woes. Over time these little things often evolve into big things which can impact ones overall walking and well being. Now is the time for you to benefit from their walking woes by learning the issues and then receiving coaching and help for walking well.
Walking is a great form of exercise and necessary form of transportation. Have you ever studied anatomy, ergonomics or physiology and wondered if you are part of the walking well or walking woes group? Walking well refers to effective and efficient walking to improve your blood vessels, bones, heart, joints, lungs, muscles and structure. Walking woes refers to the ineffective and inefficient walking that can correlate with harmful, improper or poor alignment, breathing, gait, posture, shoes or stride that can create pain, potential risks and problems.
Due to modern conditions, conveniences and technology most people today are not walking enough to maintain and sustain their body and health. Many people that are walking for health are actually impairing their health and doing mild to significant damage to their bones, cartilage, joints, ligaments and spine from alignment, posture and structural problems.
My observations indicate about 80% of people are walking with an unnatural foot position, gait or poor posture which often results pain and physical harm over time. This may very well be the primary reasons so many people are suffering with back, foot, hip, knee and neck pain. Our physiology which consists of our alignment, posture and structural functional and much more are the foundation factors that determine our happiness, harmony, health and overall well being.
The goal of this post is to help you discover some of the most common problems and walking woes in order to learn how to correct them so you can begin walking well. Our body was designed with specific ergonomics, mechanical and structural properties. When you understand these basics it is easier to move and walk the way your body was designed to walk. Many people find aches and pains simply vanish or tremendous reduction after they adjust their alignment and posture. When you turn structurally stressful strolling into wonderful walking wellness workouts your life may be transformed forever.
It is important to understand the core concepts and structural dynamics for walking well. With new awareness and applying these strategies you can easily improve your flexibility, movements and range of motion.
Walking Woes to Walking Well
Do your feet point slightly outward and cause you walk like a duck? Many people have become conditioned to walk unnaturally. This can be caused by many factors such as: cheap shoes, excess weight, feet problems, high heels, hip issues, improper walking, injuries, lack of awareness, poor posture, weak muscles and worn down heels. These can all cause the feet, hips, knees and legs to be misaligned and create a tension and torque which can cause excess wear and tear at the ankles, knees, hips and lower back. It is essential to walk with the feet parallel to each other and a good leg position and stride.
Many stylish shoes today are cheaply made, do not fit well, have higher heels and are poorly designed. Raised heels create an unnatural step which causes the legs and hips to be out of structural alignment and cause the rest of the body to torque. This directly affects how the foot functions and the alignment of all the bones, joints, ligaments and tendons in the entire body which influences the overall skeletal alignment and posture. Find high quality shoes that fit well, provide good ergonomic support and keep the foot level with the ground for your safety, satisfaction and support.
Another problem is too many people walk with their head tilted too far forward. Often this is due to the head, neck and shoulders being out of alignment with an excess forward tilt. Another reason is they are looking down at the ground in front of them to watch where they are stepping. This causes them to be hunched forward with a stooped head, neck and shoulders.
This head forward position causes a lot of strain on the back and neck which over time impacts their balance and posture. It is essential to walk with your head held directly on top of the spine aligned in an erect and upright position. This helps insure that the rest of the neck, spine and body is tall and upright. The eyes should look more forward with the ground in front in the lower peripheral vision instead of the main focal point. This does take some practice especially on surfaces that are not totally flat. Ski poles or walking sticks may help with stability as you retrain your body and eyes.
When people allow their feet, ankles, knees, head, hips and spine to be out of optimal alignment they tend to walk in an awkward, jerky, off balanced or waddling motion. Over time this causes excess wear on joints, and the ligaments and muscles to compensate, resulting in even worse structural misalignment. The goal is to reverse the walking woes by walking well with an upright posture that creates a fluid motion with minimal side to side motion, swivel or wobble.
Have you observed people that look like a robot with their arms, legs and torso in a contorted and convoluted manner? Due to inadequate muscle strength and training the body develops bad habits like poor alignment, posture and stride which over time compounds the problems. The joints, tendons and muscles can become too loose, too tight or too weak for optimal functioning and the body tries to compensate with counterbalancing measures. It is essential to concentrate and focus on developing and strengthening the skeletal system and then begin retraining the body for optimal walking wellness. The goal is to glide and stride easily along in a fluid and smooth motion.
When people are grimacing as they walk you may wonder if they are unhappy or if they have walking woes causing some type of discomfort or pain. Walking should be easy, fun and relaxing. When someone is walking well they are more likely to be happy, healthy and smiling.
If your feet are out of alignment and your stride is too contorted, long or short this can cause an impact to the overall body alignment. Poor alignment, posture and structural development are common factors leading to excessive wear and tear on the skeletal system. This can lead to back, head and neck pains. Walking woes lead to physical ailments, pain and poor posture which can start a chain reaction of health problems. Walking well is great for maintaining fitness, health and vitality.
While walking is a great exercise many people have such poor alignment, slow pace and unnatural gait that the minimal fitness benefits are offset by the increased risk of physical damage and injury. Walking slowly is nice for a walking meditation but it is not going to provide the benefits of brisk walking.
While walking is beneficial making slight modifications to your posture and speed will derive major benefits with minor extra effort. The pace should allow you to barely carry on a conversation yet encourage deep breathing. Many people walk hunched forward and are restricting their lung capacity. When you walk upright and fully expand your lungs with full diaphragmatic breathing you are cleansing, energizing, and revitalizing every cell in your body.
When you notice people walking you will notice a great variety of foot wear. This includes: all terrain footwear, deck shoes, flip flops, hiking boots, river sandals, running shoes, sandals, street shoes, tennis shoes and walking shoes. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The bottom line is to find quality footwear that works well for your needs.
Quality socks and walking shoes are one of the most important investments you can make for your comfort, health and well being so choose wisely. Socks should offer adequate padding and wick moisture away from your feet. Footwear should protect your soles and toes from bruising, cuts and injury. They should also provide good support and traction even on slippery or uneven surfaces. Many people fall due to conditions caused by their footwear which result in serious injuries. Comfortable and weather appropriate clothing is also important.
While many sandals may feel comfortable they frequently leave you exposed to various injuries. When you find a really great all purpose sock and walking shoe be smart and buy multiple pairs. Sometimes you may need to buy orthotic insoles with arch, metatarsal and tarsal features to provide optimal foot comfort and support. Many foot problems are an overall body alignment problem and require comprehensive alignment, posture and structural coaching and guidance. It is best to avoid the quick fix mentality of cheap insoles or new shoes instead of correctional ergonomics.
Another common walking woe is when people do not swing their arms or swing them in an awkward or unusual way. Many people will swing each arm differently from the other arm. Some barely swing their arms and others swing them wildly from front to rear. Sometimes they exaggerate the movement to the front and barely swing to the rear. Some even have the arm swing forward and cross over past the midline of the body. Often people have their shoulders hunched forward and arms roll forward from the shoulder socket. These movements are indications of walking woes.
The arm movements are another example of walking woes or can play a vital role for walking well. The optimal arm swing is one that naturally goes straight forward and then to the rear parallel to each other and with the palm of the hand facing inward toward the body. The front swing is about twice as far as the rear swing with the hand relaxed and slightly cupped. The head is up, the shoulders should be relaxed and fairly fixed in place, the spine is erect with the arms doing most of the movement. When the left foot is forward the right arm is swinging forward at the same time and when the right foot is forward so is the left arm. Both should be in a rhythmic and smooth stride keeping the body balanced, flowing and graceful.
Ten Tips for Walking Well
- Focus on your alignment, posture and structure as you walk every day. Walking well will improve your cardio vascular system, lung capacity and reduce stress. Asking a family member or friend to walk and talk with you will help you connect and share quality time. You can take turns observing the others walking patterns.
- Several time a week wear a small day pack on your back. This is great for carrying a cell phone, jacket, water and weight. Try walking as you balance and carry an object on your head like a gallon jug of water. Many cultures carry fairly large loads on their head as they walk.
- At least once a week enjoy a long walk. Wear a small back pack with your cell phone and water. An amazing walking experience is to enjoy a back packing trip, all day hike or walking trek in nature. When you carry your food, gear and water you reconnect with your ancestors who made long walking trips out of necessity.
- To enjoy a full body workout while walking you can carry water bottles in your hands. In the book called “Heavy Hands” you learn a variety of routines with hand weights to help you gain additional benefits while strengthening your arms and upper torso. Carrying water bottles helps remind you to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- While walking is great it is essential to do cross training as part of your fitness program. Doing exercises like lifts, lunges, squats, toe raises and wall sits will help build stronger muscles and prevent injuries. Core exercises and weight training are great compliments to your walking well workouts.
- Walking up and down stairs is an important part of your walking well routine. Even stationary step training with an adjustable exercise step is very valuable. Adding new movements allows for overall conditioning.
- For balance, flexibility and variety be sure to add forward, rear and side lunges to your training routine. You can do lunges with or without hand weights and add a back pack.
- It is imperative to improve your balance, coordination and dexterity by modifying your walking routines with a variety of different conditions and terrains. Backward and sidestep walking will provide additional agility and benefits. Consciously modify your speed and step patterns to improve your overall walking well fitness.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and power walking are also excellent ways to improve your stamina and strength. An example might be to walk very briskly for 30 seconds then walk normally for 90 seconds and repeat eight times.
- Walking bare foot is fantastic fun and a great exercise. Bare foot walking helps the body and foot maintain the stamina, strength and structure integrity for walking well. Walking in sand is a great way to enjoy a full workout as the foot goes through a full natural range of motion. This will help improve foot agility, flexibility and strength. Looking at your foot prints in wet sand will help determine how parallel your feet are when you walk. It is very important for the feet to be parallel and about hip width apart when walking for optimal overall alignment, posture and structure functionality.
This Great NEWS post looked at Walking Well and Walking Woes. Most people never observe their walking or take the time to learn if there are some issues that can be corrected and improved. People assume they are walking ergonomically when in fact they have slowly over time they have shifted to very harmful patterns. To know whether you are showing signs of walking woes or actually walking well may require a video camera and ergonomic expert to help evaluate and judge how well you are really walking. At least video yourself and apply the Walking Well or Walking Woes principles.
What is your current Gap?
How do look when you are walking? Are their any indications of arm, head, leg, neck or spine positioning that can contribute to a walking woe?
Mastery Action Plan (MAP)
What steps can you to take now to learn more about your walking patterns and have your walking analyzed? How can you receive ergonomic and therapeutic coaching to make any modifications necessary to correct walking woes and start walking well?
Call to Action
What comments, commitments or questions do you have regarding walking well and walking woes?
Next week the Great NEWS blog will share:
Travel Tensions Troubles and Toxins
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