Stretches While Walking
Walking is the best exercise. To keep us on our feet and moving with ease, we often get tips for stretching before and after walking. For years, the rebel in me has been doing stretches while walking.
Benefits of Walking
Researchers promote walking as a terrific way to improve or maintain our overall well being. Walking benefits include our ability to
- reduce body fat
- increase cardiovascular fitness
- strengthen bones
- boost muscle power
- elevate stamina and endurance
- improve mood.
Benefits of Stretching
While walking is an excellent form of exercise for overall health, research concludes that stretching will keep us walking at pace and with fluid movement through all of our joints. The benefits of stretching before and after we walk include the following:
- decreases your chances of injury
- increases your performance during your walk
- decreases muscle soreness after your walk.
Why Do Stretches While Walking?
Undeniably, stretching before and after a walk has proven benefits. Yet, why do stretches while walking? Over the years, I have reaped the benefits of taking a stretch break during long walks of an hour or more.
We May Walk Longer with Less Discomfort
On long walks, choosing to stretch has value. Most importantly, if I feel a catch or glitch in my movement, I will often stop and do a stretch so if I can return to fluid movement. Rarely, do I continue walking when I feel
- pain in my knee
- tightness in my back
- ache in my calf
- discomfort in my legs
- soreness in my foot.
Much to any new walking partners’ surprise, I will immediately stop and do some stretches. Usually, the brief pause and the stretches I do while walking quickly return me to fluid, pain-free movement.
Honestly, people who have walked with me a lot, know that I will do stretches while walking. Often, they’ll join me taking a few shapes to feel better, too.
We’ll See Amazing Things
Even more wonderful, when we stop walking to stretch, we often see things that we would not have seen if we kept on walking. It’s like our pause of being in motion – our gentle stillness with our breath – allows nature to be at ease and reveal itself.
In fact, humans are the only animals that walk continuously and at steady rhythm. Most animals, walk, pause, walk, pause. Trust me, animals know when humans are out and about.
I enjoy walking from long hikes in the mountains, to beach walks and even walking labyrinths. I find walking incredibly rejuvenating.
Some of my most spectacular memories from walking are actually of the times when I paused and stretched. For example, while in the back country of Yoho National Park during one of my stretch breaks, my family and I actually witnessed an elusive wolverine kill a marmot and then carry it across a snowy, steep slope.
When we returned from our hike, we told the ranger of our discovery and showed him our video. He marveled that he had been working in the back country for 25 years and still had not seen a wolverine.
The following year, we returned to Yoho and paused at a glacier lake where I did some stretches. Once again, we saw a wolverine skirting the lake. We stayed very still and quiet and the wolverine passed within 20 feet of us.
While seeing one wolverine in its natural habitat in a lifetime is rare. Two encounters is highly remarkable. I attribute every amazing thing I’ve witnessed in nature to the times I paused and took a stretch break while walking.
Try These Stretches While Walking
If you are looking for some ideas for stretches to try while walking, here’s a few along with their benefits. Be sure to listen to your body, respond to anything that feels like “too much” by easing off, and stay attuned to your breath.
Time needed: 10 minutes
How to Stretch While Walking
- Low Back and Mid Back Stretch While Walking
Space your feet a comfortable distance apart. With your hands on your legs, spread your toes and push your feet into the ground. Breath. Keeping a reach from your tailbone to your breast bone, wait for an exhale. Then, turn from the ribs to the right. Inhale. Return to your neutral spine squat. Wait for your next exhale and twist from your ribs to the left. Inhale. Return to your neutral spine squat. Push with both feet. Stay with your breath and stand up.
Benefits: Neutral squat helps relieve low back discomfort. Squat with a twist helps maintain contralateral movement through your rib cage for fluid walking.
- Hamstring and Back Stretch
Keeping your knees slightly bent, spread your toes and root through your heels. Breathe. Wait for an exhale and hinge from your hip joint to forward fold. You may place your hands on a nearby rock or bench. As well you may hold onto a tree. Breathe. Keep your legs steady and strong by extending through your toes while pressing them down and maintaining a slight press of your heel down. Allow your head to release towards the earth as you keep breathing.
Benefits: Opens the back line of your body from legs up through spine.
- Lunge with Back Knee Down
Holding onto your walking poles, a tree, or a bench – stand well in your front foot. Step back into a comfortable width lunge with your back leg. Maintaining alignment from your foot to your hip joint, breathe. As an option, you may explore folding the back knee and brining it closer to the earth. Remain tall through your spine and out through the crown of your head. Repeat second side.
Benefits: Stretches hip flexors in back leg.
- Chest Opener
Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Breathe. Keeping strength in your legs by spreading your toes out in your shoes while pressing down through your heel and forefoot, lift up through your heart. Breathe. Widen through your collarbone by extending from the center of your breastbone out through each armpit. Breathe.
Option: Move your arms into the back plane of your body. Either clasp your hands together or hold onto your walking poles or a tree to increase the stretch sensation.
Benefits: Stretches the muscles of the front of your torso, particularly your chest muscles.
Keep Walking and Stretch on Long Walks
There are many more safe stretches you may enjoy while taking a long walk. Explore what feels good as you listen to your body. If you need some additional inspiration or a yoga practice after taking a long walk. Play this video I made for you to practice.
The yoga practice is only 12 minutes and is all standing poses. The only prop you need in this short yoga practice is a wall. I had just returned home from a long walk when I recorded this brief yoga practice. Enjoy!
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