How Much Walk is Enough?

Health agencies urge all adults to get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (for example, 30 minutes on each of five days) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. Depending upon the speed or intensity of your walks, walking could be classified as either moderate or vigorous. While the guidelines provide a good target, plenty of research has shown that walking has benefits even if you don’t hit the recommended amounts. Some is always better than none. However, more is better than some, according to a review of 22 studies—particularly when it comes to reducing your risk for heart disease. Walkers, who go longer or faster, lower their risk more than those who take shorter walks or go at slower paces. And the faster you walk as you age, the longer you may live.
Technique and proper form There’s more to walking than simply putting one foot in front of the other. In fact, a little technique goes a long way to making your walks more enjoyable and more effective.Technique is especially important if you are hoping to become fitter and lose weight, because it will enable you to walk faster and longer. When you’re standing tall, your muscles will move through a greater range of motion for a more powerful stride. Improving your walking posture will help you to look and feel more confident, too and you’ll look slimmer before losing a single pound. It will also help alleviate aches and pains in your upper and lower back and allow you to take deep breaths for more energy.
  • Stand tall. Many people bring that hunched-over- the-computer posture to their walks. This position makes it harder for you to breathe and may contribute to backaches. Other people lean backward. Instead, extend your spine as if you were being lifted from the crown of your head. Place your thumbs on your lower ribs and your fingertips on your hips. As you engage your core muscles in your abdomen and back to stand up tall, notice how the distance in between increases. Try to maintain this elongation as you walk. Strengthening your core (abs, back, hips, and buttocks) will make it easier to stand tall as you walk.
  • Eyes up. If you’re looking down at your feet, you’re putting unnecessary stress on your upper back and neck. Bring your gaze out about 10 to 20 feet in front of you. You’ll still be able to spy obstacles ahead and prevent upper-body tension.
  • Shoulders back, down, and relaxed. Roll your shoulders up, back, and then down. This is where your shoulders should be as you walk—not pulled up toward your ears. Think about keeping your shoulders away from your ears to reduce upper-body tension and allow for a freer arm swing.
  • Swing from your shoulders. Let your arms swing freely from your shoulders, not your elbows. Swing your arms forward and back, like a pendulum. Don’t bring them across your body or let them go higher than your chest. 
  • Maintain a neutral spine. A neutral spine takes into account the slight natural curves of the spine—it’s not flexed or arched to overemphasize the curve of the lower back. One way to find neutral is to tip your pelvis forward as far as it’s comfortable (lifting your tailbone up), then tip it backward (tucking your tailbone under) as far as it’s comfortable. The spot approximately in the middle should be neutral.
  • Step lightly. You should be rolling from heel to toe as you stride, not landing flat-footed with a thud. And don’t reach your leg far out in front of you. That increases impact on your joints and actually slows you down. You want a smooth, quiet stride—no bouncing or plodding along—to reduce your risk of injury.

March 27, 2022

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