Walking 10K a day gets a lot of attention—and for good reason; taking extra steps can offset sitting—but there’s something else you should be paying attention to: your form.
“If you have good posture, you’ll feel better and want to walk more,” says walking coach Michele Stanten, an ACE-certified fitness instructor and the author of Walk Off Weight. “It’s also going to help you walk faster.”
Increased comfort and speed? It’s hard to argue with that. Start walking longer and stronger today with the three simple form fixes below.
3 Ways to Perfect Your Walking
Stand tall. One thing people tend to do when they walk, says Stanten, is look down. Instead, she recommends picking up your head, pulling your shoulders back and down, and looking out at the horizon or at least 10 to 20 feet in front of you. “As soon as you do that you open up your chest and breathe easier,” says Stanten.
If you’re having a hard time keeping your head up because of the sun, Stanten recommends wearing sunglasses or a hat. Holding your head in that dropped-forward position can create tension in your upper back and neck, which not only feels terrible but can cause you to cut your walk short.
Add arm technique. You wouldn’t run with your arms at your side, so why walk that way? It slows you down. “When you pump your arms, your legs naturally want to keep up,” says Stanten. But be mindful of how you swing your arms; form counts here, too.
The first thing you want to do is bend your arms 90 degrees and keep them bent, as if in a cast, says Stanten. “Arms are like a pendulum and shorter pendulums swing faster,” she adds.
Once you’re comfortable keeping your arms bent—and all movement is coming from your shoulders—fine tune that swing. The key is keeping your arms moving forward and back. “Think about driving your elbows back,” says Stanten. “You don’t want your arms to swing higher than chest height, out to the side, or across your body.”
Reign in your stride. According to Stanten, a big mistake people make when they try to walk faster is taking big steps. “When you reach your leg in front of you it acts more like a brake,” she explains. That’s because the farther your front foot is from your pelvis, the harder you’re going to have to work to pull your body forward and over that foot.
Shorter steps are quicker. “If your front foot lands right in front of you, you’re going to roll right over that foot,” says Stanten. “It’s much smoother.”