7 mistakes that ruin your healthy walking habit

Recent research shows that walking at least 4000 steps a day can save you from memory loss.

For many of you, that’s just the icing on the cake. You’re already getting out there and walking to keep your heart muscle strong, your blood pressure down and your bones break-resistant. Good for you!

And if you’re just getting started with a walking routine, pat yourself on the back! You’re “taking the first step” to a longer, healthier life.

But the last thing you want to do is suffer an injury that could put a real kink in your walking routine. No worries — we’ve got some tips that will make this super healthy habit a walk in the park…

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Are you making these walking mistakes?

Believe it or not, there’s a right and a wrong way to walk, at least if you want to reap the health benefits without causing injury.

Here are 7 common mistakes most folks make and how to correct them…

1. Over-striding.

Many people think that faster is better (which it isn’t), so they tend to take very long steps with their front foot in order to walk at a quicker pace.

Research done with soldiers showed that those who were shorter in stature ended up with more stress on their lower leg joints, since they had to over-stride in order to keep up with the marching rhythm.

If you want to walk faster, take shorter steps with your front foot. The real power in your walk is in your back foot as it pushes off and pushes you forward. Let your back leg be the one with a wider stride.

2. Walking flat-footed.

Instead of “rolling” through each step from heel to toe with your front foot, you’re landing flat-footed. Are you hearing your foot slap against the pavement with each step? If so, that’s a dead giveaway.

Walking this way leads to shin pain, also known as “shin splints.” Flat-footed walking is often due to wearing improper shoes. (More about that in a moment).

3. Not using your arms.

Your arms naturally want to move as you walk, and you should let them, with some control. Here’s how:

  • Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Letting your hands hang down while walking can cause them to swell.
  • Keep your hands loosely curled (clenched fists can raise your blood pressure).
  • Hold your elbows close to your body (no “chicken wings”).
  • Your arms should swing or “pump” naturally. When the right foot steps forward, the left arm swings forward.

4. Leaning.

Leaning forward won’t make you go faster. In fact, it will cause wind resistance that slows you down.

Your walking posture should be upright with relaxed shoulders, chin up and parallel to the ground. Strengthening your abdominal muscles will help you hold a relaxed but erect walking posture.

5. Not drinking enough.

You may be surprised how much water you should drink to help you have a healthy 60-minute walk.

  • A glass 10 minutes before your walk
  • A cup during your walk
  • A glass or two after your walk

Avoid caffeinated beverages before your walk. They make your body lose water and can interrupt your walk with the need to visit a bathroom.

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6. The wrong shoes.

You don’t need to purchase top-of-the-line shoes, but the wrong shoes can set you up for a case of shin splints. It can also cause plantar fasciitis, an injury to the ligament that stretches from your heel to each of your toes. Burning or stabbing pain in the heel, especially in the morning, is a sign of this condition.

If your walking shoes are too heavy, too small or more than one year old, it’s time for a new pair. Also, be sure the shoes you walk in are flexible. If you can’t hold a new shoe in your hands and twist and bend it, you’ll end up walking flat-footed.

7. The wrong walking clothes.

Even for shorter walks, it’s important to be dressed comfortably. Otherwise, you won’t get the most out of the walk, and will be more likely to avoid it the next time.

The best thing to do is to dress in layers. Start with a shirt made of polypropylene or another fabric that wicks perspiration and moisture away from the body. Next, an insulating layer like a sweatshirt, followed by a windbreaker.

Here’s a tip: If possible, go to work dressed in clothing that’s comfortable enough to walk in. That way, you can sneak in a short walk at lunch time, or even every hour or two, if your job permits. Be sure to bring along comfortable walking shoes.

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.