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Walk Your Way to Better Health Part 2

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Spice up your daily walk or take your walking into '4-wheel drive’ for added benefits


Adding variety to your daily walk is easy. First, find a safe place at your walk to perform step variety. A change in gait pattern addresses different muscles of your lower body that can boost mobility and balance.

Start a new gait pattern slow until you are doing it correctly, then increase the speed of movement.

  • Sidewards walking, side shuffle or side cross over-'grapevine walking' which engages works the muscles of the inner and outer thigh(hip abductors and hip adductor muscles), these muscles that are important for balance. Sidewards walking while raising the knees higher (imagine that you are stepping over obstacles or sleeping dogs) adds in your hip flexors. Count out the number of steps leading with the right leg should be the same as steps leading with your left leg.

  • Walking on your toes strengthens the calf muscles.

  • Walking on your heels strengthen the anterior tibialis muscle, the muscle at the front of your lower legs. These muscles are important for picking up the toes while walking or walking with heel strike and may prevent you from tripping, stumbles and falls.

  • Walking backwards (only at a safe location, and walking close to fence or wall and making sure nothing is in your path. Do this with a friend do that you can take turns walking backwards while your friend watches out for you). Walking backwards works the hip extensor, the Gluteus Maximus muscle in the buttocks.

  • Heel to toe walking or tandem walking where you place the heel of one foot directly in front of the other foot and imagine you are walking on a straight line. It requires more hip strength to do this effectively and is a great exercise to help maintain hip function. If you have balance problems then practice this close to a wall or fence to provide support when needed.

  • Walking with high knees, lifting up the knees higher forces you to balance longer on one foot, uses the hip flexors and contributes to balance.

  • Interval walking or tempo changes, after a 3 to 7-minute warm-up increase speed for 30 seconds and return to comfortable walking pace for 3 minutes. there are various interval apps for your phone if you want to time yourself. Interval walking can help you improve your fitness level.

  • Change your step length, take 10 increasingly larger steps before returning to your normal step length, you see that steps are larger when you put the heel down first.

  • Weighted vest walking can boost endurance as well as muscle and bone density. To ensure safety and comfort wear a vest 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.

  • Walking with poles can enhance the number of muscles involved with walking. There are hiking poles/walking sticks and Nordic Walking poles available on the market which you can use. Walking technique is different when choosing Nordic Walking poles, however, learning how to use nordic walking technique stimulates more upper body muscle involvement as well as brain involvement because leg and right side perform different actions as you walk which benefits longterm brain health and function and you are taking your walk into ‘four-wheel drive’. Jacqueline can provide private and small group Nordic Walking instruction in your local park or neighborhood.

  • Remember to gradually warm-up the muscles and cool-down afterwards with stretches for the calf, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles.

  • Hydrate; drink water before, during and after your walk.

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