Old Habits Can Make Walking Difficult
People are creatures of habit, and few habits are as persistent as the posture and gait that characterize how we walk. Because we walk so frequently– and often without focusing on how we do it– dysfunctional patterns can become ingrained and we might not notice until discomfort, injury, or other issues arise.
Breaking our habits and adjusting the walking styles we’ve grown accustomed to can feel unnatural or awkward, but the benefits can be enormous. With a more aligned posture and efficient gait, we can get more out of each step on our journey toward improved health. Changing your walk for the better requires mindfulness and discipline, but gradually you’ll build new habits that will better support your walk and well-being.
Walking With Proper Posture
Proper posture is our body’s foundation for optimal wellness and confidence. While our posture is influenced by factors like heredity, injury, disease, and environment, it is also reflective of our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. Studies have found direct links between good posture and self-confidence.
Good posture in walking won’t just help you feel more capable and confident– it also ensures that the impact and force of walking are appropriately transmitted through your body, reducing the likelihood of muscle fatigue, strain, or injury.
Because of the link between posture and perception, visualization can be a powerful tool for improving posture in walking. Follow these cues to begin unlearning dysfunctional postural habits.
- Stand upright with your spine elongated and your focus on the horizon. Imagine a string attached to the top of your head, gently elongating you upwards. Imagine your sacrum– the back of your pelvis –as an anchor reaching you down to the ground.
- Activate your core by imagining you are tightening a wide belt around your hips and waist.
- Let your shoulders fall down your back like big wings while you keep your neck relaxed, your collarbone wide, and your palms facing your body.
- Feel your feet planted heavy on the ground below you. Imagine your five toes spilling out in front of you and your heel spilling out behind you. To find your foot’s arch support, imagine tiny fountains under each arch, causing your foot to gently dome upward.
If you find yourself reverting to old habits, take a moment to stop, breathe, and reset. If you’re looking for more ways to improve your posture, activities like Pilates, yoga, sports, and strength training can help by strengthening your core and mind-body connection.
Walking With Proper Gait
Proper gait is related to proper posture, and according to Baliston’s Director of Clinical Application and Movement Science, Dr. Chris Proulx, it is just as important as posture when it comes to our walking wellness. Similar to posture, our gait– or our walking pattern– can be impacted by many factors, including our movement habits.
“The more we walk in a particular way, the more likely we are to continue walking that way,” says Dr. Proulx.
To improve your gait, take a mindful walk and try following these cues.
- Just like your gaze, your toes should point directly ahead. Always avoid turning your toes in or out.
- When you step forward, your heel should make contact with the ground first. Then you should roll forward through your foot and toes in a fluid motion.
- Push off your big toe as you prepare for your next step, and let your hamstrings engage as they extend your leg back, gathering propulsion for that same leg to swing forward.
- Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed, allowing them to swing easily by your sides.
- See if you notice a subtle twisting sensation at your waist as you walk, which will swing your arms opposite to your legs with each step.
- Let your knees soften and bend, and keep your ankle joints loose with your feet and knees parallel. Walking with too much rigidity could negatively impact your gait’s fluidity and ultimately lead to hyperextension.
- Prioritize shorter, quicker steps, also known as a higher cadence, easing unnecessary pressure on your lower back.
Ideal Posture and Gait
Everyone is unique, and your walking style is no different. There is no such thing as perfect posture or a perfect gait, but there are ways of walking that can be either more or less functional for your unique body structure.
This is why innovative technology, such as the AI featured in Baliston footwear, is especially effective in helping people reduce fatigue, back pain, and injury risk. Baliston shoes are designed with an embedded proprietary sensor module which analyzes the way the wearer moves to provide personalized insights and recommendations, helping people increase understanding of their body and build proper walking habits.
Maintaining these good habits through mindful walking practice can help you cultivate a walk that will take you where you want to go.