Many of us could be walking our way towards ill health, with fitness expert Joanna Hall working on behalf of MBT footwear (www.swissmasai.co.uk) identifying six types of walking that could be doing long-term damage, including osteoporosis and weakening of the spine…
Walks with the upper half of their body leaning forward and the chin stuck out in front, often carrying heavy bags, which can strain the lower back and create a spare tyre of flesh because abdominal muscles are not being used correctly, as well as knee and neck pain.
Joanna says: "Check your posture is in alignment by visualising a cup of water on each breast and hip that you can't spill – it helps flatten your stomach and improve walking technique."
Walks with floppy arms swinging to the side, the resulting increased movement in their spine causing stiffness in the upper body and irritation between or below the shoulder blades.
Joanna says: "Imagine you're holding an ice cream in each hand. As each hand moves forward, visualise the arm moving across and up to your mouth as if to lick the ice cream. The movement should get your upper body moving correctly."
Walks with shoulders hunched, head down and bottom tucked under – often with lots of bags, which can cause shoulders to become misaligned and create muscular and joint pain, even tension headaches. It can contribute to weakening of the spine and osteoporosis as the muscles that support posture aren't working properly.
Joanna says: "Combat your hunched shoulders with 'Butterfly Arms'. Lie on your back with knees bent on one side and at the hip. Hold a small weight or tin of beans in your top arm and slowly extend it up and over the other side as if following the arc of a circle. Keep shoulders and neck down and elbows soft as you move and repeat on each side six times."
Walks with hips dropped down, posture slumped forwards and upper body leaning down, which can lead to weakness around the pelvis associated with groin strain and hernia.
Joanna says: "Increase the distance between your neck and shoulders by visualising your ears extending away from your shoulders, but at the same time keeping your shoulders lowered down your back. Train tummy muscles by imagining a snug belt around the waist and holding stomach muscles in for 30 seconds at a time to create space between the tummy and the 'belt'."
Walks rigidly with shoulders and arms glued to the side and with measured, equally spaced steps, the downward force of which can lead to risk of shin splints and upper body inflexibility. The reduced capacity of the spine to absorb shock together with increase joint loading can also increase risk of joint damage and osteoarthritis.
Joanna says: "Soften your movements – relax and wiggle your bottom as you walk. Visualise walking on eggshells or holding a small butterfly."
Walks by teetering on the balls of the feet in high heels, which forces them to lean forwards, leading to the chance of bunions and Achilles tendonitis and shortening of the calf muscles as well as slackening of bottom muscles.
Joanna says: "Do calf muscle exercises at your desk or get a friend to help with bottom muscle exercises. Lie face down on the floor, keeping the back flat and legs outstretched. Get your friend to place one hand on your bottom and one on your thigh. Extend the leg off the floor by four inches, which should train bottom muscles to activate first before hamstrings. Keep going until your friend can feel the correct muscle groups working.