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.
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