By Simon Gould
After crawling, walking is the first thing we do as humans when we grow up. It’s also one of the easiest things to do. While that may be the case, we may get into bad habits where walking is concerned. Perhaps an injury may cause us to favor walking a certain way which isn’t healthy. Here I’ll go through my tips for walking on a treadmill correctly:
1 – Good posture
Walking on a treadmill is just like walking outside. The belt moves under you but you should have the same posture. It’s important you concentrate on this as sometimes you’ll be using the incline. When thinking about posture, you want to walk efficiently and with the least amount of effort for the speed you’re going.
When doing any exercise, you’re really fighting against gravity and your body weight. That’s why good posture is essential, it means you won’t suffer unnecessary injuries. Even from walking, you can injure yourself if you’re not doing it correctly. Walking is one of the most natural movements we do and it should still feel that way on a treadmill. We can even walk backward on a treadmill!
2 – Speed
The treadmill has your speed shown on the console constantly in front of you. But how fast should you walk? The answer is what ever you feel comfortable with. You shouldn’t worry about a particular speed, but how fast it feels for you. Wikipedia says most people walk naturally at 3.1 mph. I think this is too fast. I’m an average height for a man and it feels fast.
It’s important to go by your height and stride length. If you’re short and you have short legs, then you’re going to walk slower, naturally, than other people. This is in spite of the same amount of perceived effort. Good exercise means a speed that is good for you. I would say between 2 and 3.5 mph is a good walking speed. But still go to your comfort zone.
3 – Don’t look down
This is good when walking on a treadmill or outside. You’re supposed to look in front of you, not down. Don’t think about your balance, even though you need to concentrate more on a treadmill to prevent falling off. Looking down is bad for your neck, it affects your whole posture in a negative way. Whether you walk or run, look straight ahead.
Not looking down means you stand up straight. It’s really tempting on a treadmill especially if you have nothing interesting in front of you. Some treadmills have a screen in the console, the problem with this, is it encourages you to look down instead of straight ahead. Always try and have your head face forward as you confidently walk.
4 – Don’t hold on
Whether the rails or railings may be at the front of you or at the side, you may be tempted to hold on. This is especially the case during a hard workout, perhaps you’re walking fast on the incline. The advice I have is never hold on, only for safety reasons should you use the railings. Your arms should swing naturally to your side.
When I used to exercise in a gym on the treadmills, I would see some people holding on while walking. Perhaps they’re trying to get their heart rate from the pulse sensors. These are inaccurate anyway and I want to tell people not to hold on. Walking should be a relaxing movement for your upper body and it can’t be if you’re using the railings to support yourself.
5 – Walk upright and don’t slouch
They used to tell me at school when I was young to walk with my head held high. This advice holds true today. This will help your posture as well if you stand tall as you walk. Don’t tense up but at the same time don’t slouch. Don’t let your shoulders fall forward in front of you as this puts pressure on your back.
Try not to walk when you’re tried or not keen, this is when you’re liable to slouch and have poor form. Walking is just like running, with the proper form and standing upright and straight, you can get so much more from your exercise. You can walk faster and for longer which aids both weight loss and an improved fitness level.
6 – Shoulders back and relax
Keep your shoulders back and, as I’ve said before, don’t tense them. Keep them back and relaxed, this means your arms will rotate and swing from the correct position. Try not to physically push your shoulders back, no matter what your form leads you to do. Your shoulders reflect the exercise your upper body does during walking on a treadmill.
Keep your back straight and don’t let it bend forward, this means your shoulders will stay back. Even if you’re walking fast, you should try and stay relaxed as possible, especially for your upper body. Your legs, although they are exerting the most effort, should be relaxed in the most part. The only muscles that should be working are the muscles propelling you forward.
7 – Swing your arms
Swing your arms but not excessively. You move your arms for stability and the correct motion matches the speed of your walk. Think of when we walk naturally, when the left leg strides forward, the opposite (right) arm matches the motion. Then back as the right leg moves forward as does the left arm. There’s no exaggerating going on.
Your elbows should be down by your side and not out, this is comfortable and natural for your limbs. I see people on treadmills doing what can be described as power walking. The arms move too much when this kind of walking goes on. Walk fast if you wish and you will feel the need to move your arms more, but don’t do a “power walking” motion.
8 – Land on the heel and push off the toe
Walking is unlike running, there is a walking motion your feet do on a treadmill or outside. You land on your heel and your foot rolls forward to the front. You then push off from the toe, your weight transfers from the back of the foot to the front. This is something we’ve done from an early age and sometimes we need to repeat the exercise.
To walk quicker, we feel we need to increase our stride lengths. This is not true, to walk quicker we need to increase the rate at which we walk. This way we can still use minimal effort no matter how quick we go. Care is still needed at every foot fall, you don’t need to have your foot leave the ground for longer, you just need to accelerate your movements.
9 – Correct footwear
If you’re going to walk, for any length of time or distance, inside or out, you need good footwear. Proper walking or running shoes are essential, I personally favor running shoes for the extra cushioning. They may cost more, but are perfectly designed for the activity you have in mind. They are needed even for treadmills and walking.
When it comes to running shoes, there are certain types you can buy depending on how you pronate when you exercise. This is the rotation in the foot as you run, for walking you don’t need to be concerned with this. Just try the shoes on and make sure they’re comfortable for you and fit well. Most of all, the correct footwear will prevent you getting any unnecessary injuries.
10 – How long we should walk for
The World Health Organization recommend we do 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as walking, per week. Spread out during the week that works out as 30 minutes per day, Monday to Friday. This is for important health benefits. This sounds like a lot but it can be broken down in to 10 minute chunks throughout the day.
The health benefits of regular exercise are enormous. Reduction in blood pressure, blood sugar, elevating mood and regulation of weight. I do it and it makes me feel fantastic, I have more energy and motivation. I have concentrated on the treadmill but, if you feel like exercising outside, then there is not much difference to my recommendations for walking correctly.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*