When done correctly, walking is an effective and low-impact exercise that helps to keep the body healthy without having to work out. However, small mistakes, like not engaging the correct muscles or taking steps that are too wide, can hurt your health. Even if you don’t notice it at the time, a few hours later you may get aches and pains as a result of poor walking habits.
Bright Side is sharing some of the most common mistakes many of us make when walking and why it’s so important to stop making them.
1. Your dog is too far in front of you.
A study on dog walkers has found that people who walk their dogs while they pull on the leash are more likely to have injuries and fractures. This is especially true for older dog walkers who are more at risk of sustaining an injury.
Because the dog is pulling on your outstretched arm, it can pull you off balance and puts pressure on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. You may get sprains in your hands as well as wrist and elbow ligament injuries. Instead, it’s recommended to walk with your dog close to you on your left when you have it on a leash.
2. You lean too far forward or backward.
It is not uncommon for us to forget about maintaining good posture, and this can greatly affect our health. Walking with a tilt forward or backward puts a strain on our hips that can lead to long-term problems, like back and hip pain.
It’s recommended to walk standing straight with your chin parallel to the ground and your shoulders relaxed and pulled back. This will help with your body alignment and won’t put any unnecessary extra weight onto your hips and lower back.
3. You walk flat-footed or on the balls of your feet.
When we take a step, we should roll our foot from heel to toe before lifting it again. However, if you are someone who doesn’t roll their foot but instead slaps your foot onto the ground or has a tendency to walk on the balls of your feet, then you may feel the uncomfortable consequences.
Walking flat-footed can lead to pain in your hips, knees, and ankles as they absorb a lot of the shock and weight. Also, walking on your toes can lead to problems with your tendons (Achilles heel) and your calves as they are put under constant stress.
4. You push forward with your front leg.
It’s important to pay attention to your muscles when walking and to make sure you are engaging them correctly. It’s unhealthy to push with the front leg because we put too much strain on our pelvis and lower back with each step. Over time, this habit can cause pain and injury.
Instead, you need to push from your buttocks and your back leg. This will naturally propel you forward without straining or forcing your legs.
5. You don’t engage your core.
This may be something that we often forget about, but it’s pretty important for supporting our weight and keeping us balanced. By tightening your stomach muscles when you walk, you keep them strong, which, in turn, prevents lower back pain and improves your posture. Forgetting to do this means that you aren’t using all of your muscles properly, and it can affect your posture.
6. Your shoulders are high.
This habit can be painful and it’s best to change it if possible. Walking with tense, high shoulders will probably lead to neck and shoulder pain as the muscles lock. Instead, try relaxing your shoulders and draw them back so that you have a naturally curved back. Make sure though that you don’t force your shoulders back or push out your chest and butt, as this can cause muscle pain.
7. You don’t use your arms.
It’s important to use your arms when you walk — not only for your balance. If you hold your arms by your sides without letting them swing, you may experience issues with your blood flow. This can also affect your tissue health and you may notice your hands get red and swollen, especially in hot weather. Instead, it’s better to let your arms swing by your side in a rhythm that matches your walking.
8. You wear the wrong shoes.
Shoes that are too stiff, too heavy, don’t fit properly, or are over 1 year old can affect your health. This is because your shoes are what cushion and absorb the shock of each step. If your shoes are too old, then their absorption will most likely be lower, as the insole is worn out.
If your shoes are too stiff or heavy, they can cause pain or strain your muscles since your feet can’t healthily roll from heel to toe with each step. This lack of support and flexibility can cause problems with your knees and give you pain in your feet.
9. Your steps are too big.
If you step too far ahead of your body, excess weight is then put onto your shins as they carry your body and absorb some of the shock. This can cause painful shin splints and lead to knee damage due to the pressure. If you find yourself doing this, it’s best to try and take smaller, more frequent steps.
How often do you buy new shoes? Which of these mistakes do you make when walking?