We are constantly told that walking is good for your health. So if you’re already walking every day, you’re on the right track.
But when was the last time you actually thought about your technique?
People hunched over their phones on the street or shuffling around in unsupportive shoes are a common sight.
However, if you want to improve your fitness, it’s not the number of steps that matters, but rather their quality and speed.
A University of Leicester study has shown that brisk walkers who take 100 steps per minute have a longer life expectancy than those who dawdle at 50 steps per minute, regardless of how much they weigh.
Sports scientist and fitness guru Joanna Hall has developed the WalkActive training plan, which has been scientifically proven to increase walking speed by up to 24 percent.
She tells Sun on Sunday Health: “We all go for a walk every day but that doesn’t mean it gets you fit because most of us could have a lot better technique.”
“The key is to increase your pace by taking longer strides and improving your posture, stability and core strength.
“Once you learn the building blocks, you can improve your body shape, knee and hip alignment, reduce stress on joints, tone arms, tighten lower abs, and tone your upper body.
“And your bottom will start to lift and tighten.
“Combating poor posture, particularly slumped shoulders and a rounded back, reduces tension and promotes flexibility, which also helps with standing and sitting.”
Hilary Mines, founder of the charity walking app Trundl, agrees.
She says: “An extra walk a day can help your life expectancy.”
“People who move in ways that we naturally evolved to move live longer, healthier lives.
“It’s literally just what the doctor ordered.”
Here we reveal how you can make the most of your walk. . .
EVERY NUMBER HAS AN ADVANTAGE
THE 10K MYTH
You’ve probably heard of the “10,000 steps per day” goal promoted by fitness enthusiasts around the world, but it comes from a marketing campaign for a pedometer.
Additional steps, no matter how many, are beneficial to your health and improve your life expectancy.
A Polish study found that walking just 4,000 steps per day was enough to reduce the risk of early death, and another study from the University of Cambridge showed that 11 minutes of brisk walking per day was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of early death death.
Joanna says: “It’s not about quantity. If you walk properly, you can complete 5,000 steps in under 50 minutes, which is faster than some people walk.
“The result is also a slimmer waist and toned arms and legs.”
“I did it wrong and led with my nose”
I thought I had mastered running around 18 months old, but I was doing it wrong.
I spent too much time looking at my phone, not using my hip flexors, and using my nose, which causes spinal problems and makes it harder to take deep breaths.
After following Joanna’s program, I ran faster than normal. I was sweating within minutes.
Now I try to walk this path every day, but I have to remind myself to think about the techniques instead of just rushing from A to B.
It has definitely helped strengthen my arms and given me a daily workout that I can do anywhere.
For more information, visit walk-active.com.
TIPS TO IMPROVE TECHNIQUE
- Start on flat ground with your feet hip-width apart and take a large step back until you feel a stretch in your back calf.
- Point your back foot. Your ankle should be open and the front of your thigh and hip stretched.
- Lower your heel back toward the floor, but keep the heel pad slightly off the floor.
- Slowly pull through the back foot until you reach the pivot point between the ball of your foot and your toes. Hold it – this is the position you want to achieve with each step.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling your stomach up and in, but not completely tensing it. Your bottom should be completely relaxed and your upper body should be long.
- Imagine having a glass of water on each hip and being lifted and balanced as you walk.
- Lengthen the space between your earlobes and shoulders by relaxing your shoulders, looking up and forward, and not tensing your neck.
- Bend your elbow slightly and perform a flowing arm movement back and forth to increase upper back mobility.
- Do not clench your fists tightly or use a mechanical “power walking” arm movement. Do the backswing with your elbow.
- Try to imagine walking away from something with the emphasis on the back foot rather than aiming at a specific point.