We are strong advocates for improving posture and activity levels so I wanted to talk about the importance of walking. There has been a great deal of research on this basic activity and its relative effectiveness in health promotion. The current recommendation is to work towards 10,000 steps per day, which research has shown to be associated with a moderate to high physical activity level. It helps to know that it takes about 5 minutes to walk 500 steps – so adding a 30 minute walk to your day can add 3,000 steps and get you a lot closer to the daily recommended goal.
Walking is also an opportunity to work on concepts such as posture and core recruitment, as these are common areas in need of improvement for neck, shoulder and back pain. Proper posture is important to ensure that there is no undue pressure or tension being placed on your joints or muscles. There is no perfect posture but rather there is an ideal posture for each person depending on your physical proportions.
That being said, the most common finding during our physical assessments is forward head posture and rounded shoulders. To correct this, we recommend gently drawing your head back (also known as a chin retraction) so that the center of your ear lines up with the middle of your shoulder (or deltoid muscle). You may have heard a more common recommendation for proper posture is to pull your shoulders back but this may leave your head forward and compromise your posture even further. This is why it may be better for you to draw your head back (or retract your chin) to be in better alignment with your shoulders and then relax the shoulders down to reduce any unnecessary neck tension. Take this newfound posture and start walking – just remember to stay as relaxed as possible!
I also recommend bringing awareness to your abdomen by gently drawing your navel inwards. This gentle activation combined with improved posture can help to recruit your core muscles in a more natural pattern.
If you want to delve deeper into walking mechanics, then try to think about walking as a series of forward propulsions as opposed to a series of forward falls. This is where the balance component comes in and will help you to walk more efficiently with less stress on your joints. Instead of falling forward to take your next step, maintain your posture and place the foot down gently. This will help to keep your weight more centered.
I realize that some of you may have mobility issues, joint pain or other problems that may limit your ability to participate in a regular exercise program, including daily walks. If this is the case, please seek appropriate medical advice or book an assessment at Renew to address your individual needs. Most importantly, keep active!