The subtle art of walking

Posted on: 4th February, 2019

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: Tania Presutti

Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional Tania Presutti, who now resides in Clonakilty, delivers a series of efficient DIY fitness exercises you can do at home.

Who in their right mind would write a fitness column about ‘The art of walking’? Well, I guess that would be me, and despite being a bit sleep-deprived (having a toddler who is apparently allergic to sleeping), I still have all my marbles and am quite serious about the topic.

Walking is of course putting one foot in front of the other, while keeping balance and breathing intact and the use of your other senses. It is also one of the small things in our everyday life, where we can really improve our posture and in turn our figure, add a little height and take a bit from the waist, without anything other than standing tall and walking strong.

The realisation actually came to me when my life as a mother began. Walking around with the buggy in the hilly landscape of West Cork, pushing the buggy up those steep hills, I soon found myself with a slightly forward leaning back. I was pushing from the shoulders and walking from the knees and feet – a good recipe for developing a sore lower back. Fortunately all my years of training have provided a good strong core foundation, so I never had to deal with lower back pain from the pushing and hill walking, but I got a sense of what a too-forward leaning posture could do.

Now if you are one of the people who always sits with a straight back and/or walks with a good posture, there is probably not much news for you in this month’s column, but if you’re one of the majority who ‘slumps’ a little on your walks or if you’re a mum with a buggy, you will hopefully find useful information.

To start finding your ‘good posture’, stand up tall with straight legs, hips over knees and shoulders over hips (and slightly pulled back, so your chest becomes as wide as possible). Head should be upright, looking forward (Don’t tilt your chin upwards but instead imagine someone is taking a strand of hair from the very top of your head and pulling it slightly lifting your head straight up). 

Now try to walk, but instead of thinking of walking with your feet and knees, try to think of walking from your hips and mind your shoulders sit directly above your hips, as opposed to leaning slightly forward. If you are leaning slightly forward, there’s a chance of relaxing too much in the lower back, whereas when you mind ‘your (hip/ shoulder) line’, you activate your core muscles and thus strengthen the lower back.

Now for buggy pushing parents, I found the key to a good buggy-push posture, is to push with the hips, rather than the shoulders. Just like a good walking posture starts at the hips, they are also key element for buggy walks. So instead of pushing from your arms and shoulders, try to feel the push as coming from your hips (and keep in mind your shoulders should be ‘stacked’ directly above your hips).

One of the biggest arguments for keeping a good posture in my mind, is not as much the esthetiques of looking better standing tall, than slumping forward, it is the benefit for your back in particular. 

It’s a common theme for adults in the western world to suffer from back problems. Most likely the epidemic of back pain stems from the fact, that most of us have forgotten how to move and move far too little and sit too much. We lift with our backs, slump and forget to activate our core (and hence lower back muscles), and the result is a weak lower back, prone to pain and problems. And by this, I’m not saying that all back pain is a result of a bad posture and too much sitting down but rather that all the sitting and slumping can lead to back problems. In any case working on having a good posture will only benefit you, so it’s something I would always recommend anyone to do. Just as drinking plenty of water is good for your daily health.

Aside from adjusting your posture, there are of course plenty of exercises, which will get your lower back strong. Correctly executed Deadlifts and Goodmornings are gold for strengthening the lower back, but if we are talking hometraining, simple back extension exercises and Quadruped Arm/ leg lift can help build muscles.

Happy walking. 

As always comments and/or questions are very welcome: taniaskitchenfitness@gmail.com.

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