5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Form When You Walk, According to a Barre Instructor
As a former dancer and current Bar Method Instructor, proper form and alignment play a huge role in my day-to-day life. However before that, like most people, I never gave much thought to how I was walking. Now I know what you're thinking—"I know how to walk. I learned that forever ago." Hear me out. Yes, you know how to walk but are you walking correctly? Chances are you learned how when you were a toddler and haven't thought much about it since.
All the time we spend sitting can weaken our walking muscles. (Here's what happens to your body when you sit all day.) This can lead to subpar walking form and unnecessary strain on our muscles and joints.
Walking is an amazing exercise for so many reasons. It can improve your blood sugar and keep your heart healthy (learn more about the health benefits of walking). Walking can even help you reach your weight-loss goals. There are plenty of other benefits including reduced stress and better mood—plus walking is free and ranks high on the list of top exercises for better health, according to a Harvard doctor.
But, you want to make sure you're walking the right way. Having the proper form can offer a multitude of healing benefits such as reduced back pain, decreased wear and tear on your joints, increased core strength and even better lung health. All it takes are a few mindful adjustments to get you on your walking A game. Here are 5 small things you can do to improve your walk.
1. Roll Your Foot Heel to Toe
The heel of your foot should make contact with the ground before any other part of your foot. Aim for a smooth rolling motion from the heel to the ball of the foot and then onto your toes. Keep your back foot on the ground longer and give yourself a good push off the ball of your foot to propel your front foot forward.
2. Keep You Feet Hip-Width Apart
Having your feet hip-width apart is the foundation for a comfortable position in barre, yoga and your daily life—walking included. This position helps your joints, muscles and organs of the body sit comfortably. When you hear hips-width apart think bone, not flesh. Many of us (myself included) have curvier, wider hips thanks to muscles and fat however, your true hips-width apart stance is much narrower than that. Think of aligning your second toe with your ankle, up to your knee and then the bony front part of your hip. That is your true stance.
3. Engage Your Core
Gently tighten your stomach muscles while you walk. If you're not sure what this feels like imagine the feeling you get in your abs when your cough or laugh. It's that subtle but noticeable grip and tightness within your core. This will help stabilize your body while also relieving pressure on your lower back.
4. Press Your Shoulders Back and Down
Have you ever noticed how dancers and barre students have a posture that's next level? That came from constantly being reminded to press their shoulders down and back. If your shoulders are hunched, it can strain the muscles and joints in your neck and upper back. Not only will this improve your posture over time, research shows it can actually help improve your lung function (opening your chest helps increase airflow).
5. Look Forward
When you walk, look ahead of you. That means lifting your chin and focusing your attention about 10 feet in front of you (ahem—don't look down at your phone). This way your body is upright and not leaning forward. During class, I tell clients to pretend there's a string running from the top of their heads up into the sky. Find that length within your body.
These simple adjustments aren't difficult but they do take a conscious effort. Give your walking form some extra attention and love next time you go for a stroll and reap the benefits!