By Sheri Albertson
NSCA certified / B.S Exercise Science Sports Medicine
Trainer/ Program Coordinator of NHRMC Jack Barto Center for Employee Fitness
Walking is a beneficial form of exercise, and its health benefits can be underestimated. As a trainer for over 20 years, I have witnessed first-hand how walking can contribute to overall health – both for myself and for clients.
The list of benefits from walking is extensive.
When I prescribe walking as cardio homework for my clients, they sometimes ask, “Is that even considered exercise? It doesn’t seem hard enough.”
I say, “Who said it was supposed to be hard?” As their trainer, I want them to move their bodies and make sure they can continue their exercise habits once they no longer need me.
My job is to help them and teach them how to reach their goals. Goals can include:
- Getting off blood pressure medications
- Improving cardiovascular strength (lowering chances of a heart attack or stroke)
- Lowering blood glucose levels (prevent type 2 diabetes)
- Losing weight
- Feeling better.
I get to shock them when I let them know they don’t have to run or do burpees or rope whips. Instead I tell them this Rocket Science news -- Walking is the most effective low-impact way for them to burn fat and help reach all of their goals.
And I start my clients at their own pace. We may start with a goal of 10 minutes a day and progress accordingly to 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week.
In addition to the health benefits listed above, my clients often tell me they feel stronger, their joints don’t hurt, they are less stressed, sleep better, and their clothes fit better.
If you are going to start a walking program, please use good technique to maximize benefits and avoid injury. You do not want to create imbalances or compensations due to poor technique.
1. Use good posture. You will want to be aligned, so think about getting tall and straight. Don’t lean forward or backward while you walk; it can put strain on your back.
2. Keep your head on straight. Look straight ahead about 20 feet with your chin parallel to the ground so you don’t put too much strain on the neck. For every inch your head moves forward, you add 10 pounds of stress to your spine.
3. Relaxed shoulders: If your shoulders are up by your ears, you are walking too tight and will not be able to get the full benefits of lowering blood pressure and reducing stress, etc. So breathe in, shrug your shoulders up and then breathe out and relax those shoulders. If you notice they are up by your ears again repeat.
4. Do not arch your back. Contract your core and engage your glutes to protect your lower back. Think of your pelvis as a bucket of water, and you don’t want the water to tip out in either direction.
5. Swing your arms. Bend your elbows, keep your hands loose and move your arms front to back without allowing the hands to cross the midline of the body.
6. Stride. Keep the stride longer behind the body than in front of the body. Reaching too far in front with your lead foot is over-striding and could be harmful to your feet, knees and back -- plus it is inefficient.
7. Strike with your heel. Your foot strike should start with your heel and roll to the toes. Push off toes from the back leg to bring back foot forward. This back leg push off is what drives you forward.
8. Keep in mind that your goal is not to take bigger steps to be faster but instead the key is for you to take smaller, more frequent steps.
- Have a good pair of walking shoes that are designed for your foot striking pattern.
- Take water and stay hydrated.
- Know where you are going. Tell a friend.
- Set goals and have fun.