Walking is the most utilized form of exercise by Baby Boomers and older adults. And why not? This cardiovascular activity is convenient, inexpensive, and provides a lot of benefits for both mental and physical fitness. Even in bad weather, you can walk up and down your hallway or climb into your car and drive to the nearest mall or big box store to get your steps in.
Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk? It’s quite a wobbly process (we’re witnessing it now with our youngest grandson). But after a couple years, kids walk with a beautiful natural stride. They just know how to do it! Unfortunately, as we grow older, with aches and pains and maybe some sedentary time, we develop quirks that take us away from a healthy walking style.
Since I’ve had problems with my hip (bone-on-bone arthritis and hip replacement last year), I pay close attention to my walking form. I always try to make my steps as even as possible and wear the best shoes I can find.
So I was happy to see these guidelines recently from two organizations I respect.
Good Walking Form
These first 9 recommendations come from TivityHealth, home company of SilverSneakers, the free fitness program for seniors that’s included with many Medicare Advantage plans.
1) Walk as if you are balancing a book on your head.
2) Chin level, eyes looking straight ahead, not down (I am very guilty of this!).
3) Holding stomach in will improve posture and strengthen abdominal muscles.
4) Work to make your stride smooth.
5) Think of your foot as it rocks from heel to toe, and push off with your middle toe.
6) Take shorter and quicker steps to go faster rather than extra long steps.
7) Any pace is better than no pace; don’t push yourself too hard.
8) Sometimes physical problems can keep you from going very fast; listen to your body.
9) Walk at a pace where there is a little effort/push to strengthen your heart.
And then there’s the matter of a good pair of shoes. Most foot professionals say we should change out our walking shoes every 6 months (a good birthday and holiday gift request). Here are recommendations from the Americana Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society to get a good fit to keep your feet happy:
1) Have your feet measured when they are their largest: at the end of a day or after a job or walk.
2) Wear your workout socks.
3) Have both feet measured.
4) Always try on shoes because sizes vary by manufacturer.
5) Make sure both shoes fit.
6) Ensure that the shoe provides at least one thumb’s width of space from the longest toes to the end of the toe box.
Keep walking and give your body the best support possible! This exercise will improve your mood along with your cardiovascular profile. And walk with one or more partners to make the activity more pleasant and keep you accountable. When you’re able, be sure to push yourself: increase the intensity (faster pace, more hills) to get the best health outcome.
For additional help to up your fitness program, give me a call!
We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for your friends or family.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that—oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.
Lisa Teresi Harris is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer, and author of the book Building Your Enduring Fitness. A certified Geri-Fit Instructor, she helps Boomers and seniors to regain and keep muscle strength, mobility, and energy.
Contact Lisa to inquire about a customized, in-home fitness program for you or a loved one.