To keep ourselves healthy, we pick up a regular exercise regimen and break bad food habits by opting for what we've learned to be the good stuff. Vegetables take over, potato chips become a mere memory, and dessert tends to go from being a nightly thing to a deserved indulgence. But did you know that the way you walk could be having an effect on your health as well?
"Most people don't walk with proper alignment," says Karen Erickson, a New York City-based chiropractor. "From all of the sitting that we do during the day, our hips flexors are tight so we walk with our hips flexed, our back arched, and our bum behind us."
1. Walking with proper posture starts with your sternum.
"When you lift your sternum up, it automatically puts your shoulders and neck into correct alignment so you don't even have to think about them. Unless you're walking on ice and have to look down, gaze 20 feet ahead of you and see where you're going," says Erickson.
2. The bag that you carry matters.
"Bags that are too heavy, too short, or too long interfere with your ability to swing your arms naturally," Erickson says. "It throws off your balance, keeps you from using your muscles and joints appropriately, and can create tightness, stress, and injury because you're not able to move your arms or legs through their full range of motion," Erickson adds. "A lot of new handbags have both long and short straps so if you're going to walk a short distance from your car to your office you can grab it by the short handles, but if you're going out for a longer walk, then use the cross-body option."
3. When it comes to your footwear, sporting the wrong shoes can impact your gait.
"Ideally, you want to strike with your heel and roll through your foot as you walk," she says. . "They force you to grab with your toes in order to keep them on your feet and as a result interfere with your heel-toe stride. They also make your gait shorter so you're not getting the full range of motion in your hips, ankles, and feet when you walk."
4. Allow the leg that's behind you to linger there for a nanosecond longer before stepping it forward.
"Tight hip flexors means we tend to shorten our gait more than we need it to, so lengthening your stride gives you a nice stretch along the fronts of your hips and your quadriceps," Erickson says. "Proper walking can be like yoga in action."
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