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Walk This Way

Walk This Way

For healthy adults, walking is so automatic that no one even remembers having learned how to do it. Yet it’s easy to pick up a few bad habits along the way that make our walks less efficient–and maybe even cause injuries. But even patterns established over a lifetime can be reversed, according to a recent issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Ideally, by adulthood a person will walk with head erect, back straight, arms bent, knees extending and flexing, and feet striking the ground with the heel and pushing off with the toes. The upper body also gets into the act. Unfortunately, few people achieve the ideal gait, and fewer still maintain it. Over time, we may lower our heads and thrust our trunks forward. Instead of swinging, our arms may dangle listlessly at our sides.

Bad habits aren’t the only reason our gaits go awry. A variety of health conditions can throw us off stride, too. Arthritis is perhaps the most common. Good reflexes, healthy joints, strong muscles, and the vestibular system in the ear, which gives us a sense of spatial positioning, all play a role in keeping us upright. Take away any of them, and our balance suffers.

Here are some tips to correct bad walking habits:

Look ahead. Train your sights 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. If you need to check the ground to avoid obstacles, lower your eyes, not your head.

Stretch your spine. Your shoulders should be level and square. Tuck your butt in.

Bend your arms. Flex your elbows at close to 90-degree angles and let your arms swing at waist level.

Take measured steps. Too long a stride throws you off balance. Concentrate on taking shorter steps, but more of them.

Organic Spa Magazine is a national consumer lifestyle magazine about bringing spa wisdom into the modern green lifestyle. For a free digital subscription, click here.

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8:40AM PST on Mar 4, 2009

Because I've been experiencing excruciating pain in both shoulders, both hips, and one elbow for the better part of a year, I've searched for answers (and relief) from many modalities.
Part of what I've discovered is that "ideal" posture (i.e., the way ancient/classical and traditional/native cultures carry themselves at work, play, and rest) is nothing like what we "civilized" peoples currently practice. In less than a century, tucking the pelvis has resulted in an average spine shape very different from what it used to be, and people have developed the myriad pains that go along with a stooped, forward-head, rounded-shoulder posture. What's more, swinging the arms puts tremendous stress on the rotator cuff muscles that surround the shoulder.
Check out Esther Gokhale's website (http://egwellness.com), book (8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back), and YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yYJ4hEYudE) for insight and inspiration! She teaches to stick your tail behind you, rotate your shoulders back, and stretch your spine. I'm still working on it but feel improvement after only a few weeks.

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