With medical professionals encouraging people to increase their number of steps per day, we question, are all steps the same? The answer is simply, no. You can maximize the benefits of walking while decreasing the stress on your body by following these simple guidelines.
- Posture First. Think Tall! Elongate the crown of your head toward the sky and elongate the space between your ribs and pelvis. Doing so decreases pressure in your joints by activating the muscles that support them. Think about the posture you would have while balancing a book on your head.
- Trunk Movement. As your arms swing your trunk should rotate lightly. Do not walk “en blocke” avoiding this trunk rotation. Trunk rotation helps your spinal mobility, balance, and abdominal strength.
- Foot Position. Avoid rotating your foot to the ten or two o’clock position. Keep it in neutral at twelve o’clock.
- Quiet Steps Only. You should strike the ground softly with the heel and push off to the next step with your toes. Avoid loud slapping with the feet while walking.
- Stride Length. Short quick steps are preferable to decrease joint stress, however be sure your stride is not too short by fully extending your hip.
- How Fast Should I Be Walking? According to the Journal of Sports Medicine, light walking is <100 steps per minute, moderate is 100-129 steps per minute, and vigorous walking is > 130 steps per minutes.
- Watch Your Heart Rate. The current recommendation for heart rate intensity during your walking program (by the American Heart Association) should by calculated by taking 50-80% of (220-age). However, it is understood that not all people of the same age are created equally. So consult with your physical therapist or trainer for more specific intensity recommendations based on your physical abilities.
- How Much Should I Be Walking? According to the Journal of Obesity we should strive for > 15,000 steps per day and/or greater than 7 hours per day standing upright.
While each one of these recommendations are important to minimize stress on the joints and maintain a healthy lifestyle, focus on only one or two at a time while walking. This is a great start learning to gradually improve one’s gait. Keep progressing as you improve and aim to incorporate most of the above recommendations. If you have more specific questions on how you should be walking, consult your local physical therapist.
The American Heart Association, url hhtps://healthyforgood.heart.org, Know your Target Heart Rate for Exercises, Losing weight and Health.
J. Slaght et al., Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 2017,Walking Cadence to Exercise at Moderate Intensity for Adults: A Systematic Review, Article ID 4641203.
WW Tigby et al., International Journal of Obesity, 2017 Volume 41,689-696, Time spent in sedentary posture is associated with waist circumferences and cardiovascular risk.