Walking is the simplest of movements; it’s the foundation of all of our daily activity.
But for many, instead of using every muscle in your body really effectively as you walk, you rely on a few ‘old favourites’ to do the hard work. You’re therefore missing out on enormous calorie-burning, shaping and toning opportunities.
I call my walking system WalkActive because it’s an active way to radically change your body for good. Once mastered, the result is a movement pattern that’s smooth and flowing, helping to lengthen and tone your body. It will dramatically improve your posture, joints and health. I’ve seen people lose centimetres around their waist, and non-exercisers turn into dedicated, delighted walkers.
This is a whole new movement pattern and it takes practice, so don’t panic if your body feels stiff and awkward at first – this is quite normal.
If it feels like it’s going wrong at any point, just come back to your feet.
Start at the feet and build back up again, one body part at a time to get your alignment right. Let’s get started …
NECK & SHOULDERS
PROBLEM: Limited movement and asymmetry. All those hours hunched in the wrong posture lead to a stiff back and shoulders, resulting in a clunky way of walking.
TRY THIS: Relax and open up. Think about increasing the distance between your earlobes and shoulders; imagine your neck lengthening and shoulders falling away down your back. This opens your chest and encourages good spine alignment.
PROBLEM: Reduced arm swing.
This limits your natural spine rotation, which stops your oblique muscles from getting a workout and trimming your waist.
TRY THIS: Bend and pull back. Slightly bend your elbows, and focus on drawing your arms back, then letting them naturally swing forward. (Don’t pump your arms or clench your fists.) This will help your spine rotate, activate your obliques and increase your speed as you walk.
HIPS & TUMMY
PROBLEM: Tight legs and a sore lower back. The leg muscles at the front and top are overused at the expense of those at the back and in your bottom; these shorten and throw off spinal alignment, leading to back pain.
TRY THIS: Lift up from your hips and activate your tummy. Imagine a tray of water glasses at hip level.
As you walk, lift up and out of your hips so they don’t spill. (Don’t stick your bottom out or clench it.) At the same time, draw your abdominal muscles in and up. This helps your bottom muscles contract and tones and flattens your tummy while reducing back discomfort.
FEET & ANKLES
PROBLEM: Passive foot strike. For most of us, the foot hits the ground more or less flat and all in one go, which puts stress on your joints and affects your balance and posture.
TRY THIS: Roll through your foot. With each step, gently roll from heel to arch to ball to toes. Your foot might feel softer and as if it’s spreading inside your shoe – this is good! Push evenly off your big, middle and little toes. You’ll soon feel as if you’re moving more easily and at a quicker pace.
24% is the amount by which walking speed increased in a group that followed the WalkActive technique for 28 days. As well as optimising participants’ calorie burn, it was found to improve their posture and reduce joint stress.
While we’re on the topic, here’s how this woman lost 54kg by walking everyday. Plus, how walking every night after dinner can help you lose weight.
For more tips, download the e-book, Joanna Hall’s WalkActive Programme (Little, Brown Book Group, $19.99), from iTunes or Amazon, or get the WalkActive app (free with in-app purchases for iPhone and Android).
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