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Things You Must Do to Walk Better for Exercise, Says Top Trainer

Here is your go-to walking checklist to ensure you're getting the most out of your daily strolls.
walker in nature slow

Take it from me, someone who has helped hundreds of people get fitter and lead healthier lives: Walking is not only one of the most fundamental movement patterns and activities we do every day, but it's also one of the best ways to burn extra calories and improve your fitness without overtraining or messing up your gym performance. In fact, here's a dirty little secret: Most of the really fit people I know—weightlifters, marathoners, CrossFitters, competitive athletes—are almost always supremely dedicated walkers, as well.

But the biggest mistake that fitness walkers make is assuming that what they're doing is 100% correct. Believe it or not, there's no such thing as a "perfect walker," as walking is essentially controlled falling. Take one study, which was conducted by the Movement Lab at Ohio State University and published in the Biology Letters. The researchers discovered that for every step we take, our bodies continually work to correct little errors in our kinetic chains. Every step is a game of stability, and too many poor steps can lead to pain, discomfort, and even injury. This is why it's important that you try and limit any mistakes you're making from poor walking mechanics. (For more on these, check out The Bad Walking Habits You Should Stop Immediately, Say Walking Experts.)

I've created here a 4-point, super-basic "walking mechanics" checklist to ensure that you're walking correctly. Follow these steps before you go out, and you'll walk farther, for longer. So read on, and if you'd like to walk your weight to weight loss, see here for The 30-Second Trick to Lose More Weight While Walking.

1

Walk with Your Chest Tall, Shoulders Back

proper walking posture

If you're pretty sedentary or work a desk job, chances are you've got a head that protrudes forward with a rolled shoulder posture. These poor-posture mistakes can carry over into your other movement patterns, such as walking. Instead of reinforcing that same posture, we need to correct it. So stand tall with your chest up and shoulders back with your neck in a straight line when you walk. And for more ways to be a better walker, learn why These Are the Single Worst Shoes for Walking, Says New Study.

2

You Walk With Bent Elbows and Do a Proper Arm Swing

proper arm swing while walking

Along with good posture, you need to have the right mechanics with your arms. They should be slightly bent, and moving naturally in congruence with your stride. Let them swing naturally—don't over-swing wildly—so that you feel as though your arms are helping propel you forward. For more on the health benefits of walking see here for the One Major Side Effect of Going on a Single 1-Hour Walk, Says New Study.

3

Heel-Toe Steps

heel toe stepping to being a better walker

Instead of being on your toes or dragging your feet when you walk, you want to lead with your heel on the ground, and finish with the toes. In terms of your stride length, keep it small to medium length. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to over-stride. If you can hear your foot smacking the ground, shorten your stride stat.

4

Breathe Through Your Nose, Not Your Mouth

breathing through your nose not your mouth while walking

When breathing, we want to be doing it out of our noses rather than our mouths. Why? Well, it's better for us physiologically, because it filters out dust in the atmosphere, humidifies the air, and helps improve oxygen circulation. And for more on being a better walker, don't miss The Secret Trick for Walking for Exercise, Says Harvard.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu is a fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles. Read more
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