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While walking may be a low-impact exercise, improper posture can lead to muscle strain and discomfort that contributes to injury. Proper mechanics when walking also will ensure you are getting the greatest benefits from walking -- including tighter core muscles. While proper walking may take practice to perfect, you can reap the benefits of less back pain and discomfort. Check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Head and Neck
If you frequently experience upper back, shoulder or neck pain after a walking session, you may not be holding your head properly. Your head should be straight, with your gaze about 15 to 20 feet in front of you, according to MayoClinic.com. If your chin is parallel to the ground, you are holding your head high enough. You should not feel tension in your shoulders. Keep your shoulders down and moving as naturally as possible. You may wish to make circles with your shoulders forward and backward to relieve tension as you walk.
Contracting your stomach muscles as you walk can help to tone your abdomen and reduce back pain when you walk, according to вЂњThe New York Times.вЂќ Your pelvis should be slightly tucked under to align with your torso. Tighten your stomach muscles to keep your posture as straight as possible. If you do not use your stomach muscles enough when you walk, you are more likely to experience back pain because your back will compensate.
Arm swing can help to speed your walk and increase the intensity of your exercise routine. A smooth, non-jerky arm swing can be achieved by gently swinging your bent arms in a natural motion, according to MayoClinic.com. You should not make a fist, because this increases arm tension and affects blood flow. Proper arm swinging improves your balance and burns 5 percent to 10 percent more calories, according to Go Ask Alice!, a health resource from Columbia University. To maintain your best balance, do not swing your arms too high -- they should not rise higher than your breastbone.
Proper foot positioning during walking helps to create a smooth, even motion that minimizes foot, knee and back pain. Let your heel hit the ground first, then gently roll toward the front of your foot toward your toe, according to MayoClinic.com. Try to hit your heel on the ground as gently as possible. Your shoes must be supportive, with a sole thick enough to absorb shock, yet flexible enough to move through the rolling foot motion. If you are making a lot of noise as you walk, this can indicate you are not practicing proper mechanics.