If you’re looking for a way to excuse-proof your exercise routine, look no further: Walking is not only a simple and effective way to stay physically active, it’s also a safer way to improve your health during the Covid-19 pandemic because you can exercise outdoors.
“The biggest benefit of walking is that it’s really accessible to just about everybody,” says Christopher John Lundstrom, PhD, MEd, director of sport and exercise science at the University of Minnesota School of Kinesiology.
It’s no surprise that walking is the most popular aerobic physical activity in the U.S. In any given week, about six in 10 adults report walking for at least 10 minutes.
But what might be surprising is that there are a lot of common mistakes people make when walking for fitness. Some mistakes can lead to injuries. But even minor transgressions can make your walking less beneficial and less enjoyable—which can mess with your motivation and make it harder to develop a consistent routine.
Here are the most common walking mistakes and tips on how to fix them.
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Wearing the wrong footwear
When it comes to avoiding injury, it’s essential to wear the best walking shoes for your feet, says Steven Jasonowicz, DPM, a podiatric foot and ankle surgeon at the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute. Wearing the wrong footwear numbers among common walking mistakes.
He suggests wearing athletic sneakers that are supportive, feel good and fit correctly.
Swinging your arms too much—or too little
Use your arms to your advantage. When walking, your arms act as counterweights to your legs, says Lundstrom. And while it’s natural to move each arm with the motion of the opposite leg, “the movement should be just enough so your trunk isn’t moving back and forth and is nice and stable,” says Lundstrom. “The more vigorously you’re walking, the stronger your arm action is going to be. If you’re walking fairly leisurely, you don’t need very much arm motion.”
Try to relax your arms and let them move naturally to avoid this walking mistake.
Straining your neck and shoulders
It’s also important to avoid tensing up. “Your shoulders should be loose,” Lundstrom says. “Over a few minutes, it’s not a big deal. But if you’re carrying tension in the shoulders and arms over 20 to 30 minutes, it can be uncomfortable and make walking a less pleasant experience.”
Try this: Every 10 minutes or so, check in and make sure your shoulders are loose and your arms are moving freely to avoid making this walking mistake. It can also help to think about keeping your neck in a neutral position so that you’re not straining up or down. Think about relaxing your neck and keeping it in line with your spine, and set your gaze on the ground ahead of you, Lundstrom suggests. This will help your posture and reduce any discomfort. It will also help you scope out your footing.