Walking is an excellent form of cardiovascular endurance exercise and our main mode of locomotion. And, while walking technique may not be rocket science, it is exercise science and, there are proper walking/gait biomechanics which may provide the walker with all the benefits walking has to offer as well as preventing potential overuse injuries and falls.
Below are a few guidelines which may lead to proper walking/gait biomechanics. As always, consult a physician prior to beginning any exercise program.
-Keep the eyes fixed forward and the head and cervical spine in neutral.
-Avoid dropping the head to look at the ground. Instead, just glance at the ground when needed with your eyes only.
-Keep the jaw relaxed (i.e. avoid “jutting” the jaw/chin forward).
-Keep the shoulders relaxed back/down and the core muscles engaged. However, make certain to allow yourself to breathe rhythmically throughout.
-The rib cage should be lifted and you should think of standing tall with the lumbar spine in neutral.
-Avoid leaning forward/backward with the torso. The terrain may cause the torso position to be modified slightly (i.e. up-hills may require a small amount of forward hinging from the hip joint with the torso; down-hills may require a small amount of torso extension). However, for the most part, walk tall.
-The arms should be flexed at the elbow joint, approximately 45-90 degrees, with the hands in a relaxed grip, the palms facing one another with no movement at the elbow joint itself. So, the arm movement initiates from the shoulder joint.
-If the arms are suspended at your sides, you are more likely to experience numbness in the fingers, discomfort in the shoulder joint and this position is not as biomechanically advantageous as the flexed elbow position.
-Drive the arms back from the shoulder joint until the back of your upper arm is close to parallel to the ground.
-Avoid swinging the arms across the midline of the body.
– Create bi-lateral opposition with the arms and legs. For example, as the right leg swings forward, the right arm drives backward, left arm forward, and left leg backward. The faster the arms move, the faster the hips/legs/feet will move.
-There is rotation/flexion/extension at the hip joint which permits the leg to swing/move in a forward/backward direction.
-So, as the right leg swings forward, the left leg moves backward at the hips with the left heel elevated as the right foot comes in contact with the ground.
-The heel of the right leg comes in contact first, and then the ball of the foot followed by the big toe.
-Make certain not to over-stride with the right leg which may lead to hyperextension of that knee.
-Push off of the right big toe to propel yourself forward and then, the left leg will swing forward and the process continues.
-While you are not walking on a “ balance beam”, you are attempting to walk as straight a line as possible.
-There is very little “space” between your feet and the ground so avoid a “marching” gait.
-Your gait should be smooth, fluid, continuous, low impact, linear (not bobbing up and down) and synchronized.