You may be eager to get started on your walk – perhaps the weather’s inviting or you have chores to hurry back to – but taking the time to properly warm up and stretch before you walk, and cool down and stretch again after you walk, should be a priority.
“Stretching before you walk helps decrease the chance of injury, increases your performance during your walk and decreases muscle soreness after you walk,” says Don Lein, a physical therapist at the University of Alabama’s Spain Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham. Feeling inflexible and unsure how to stretch properly? Here are some guidelines for stretching, walking and then stretching again.
First, start by warming up for a few minutes – try marching in place or walking slowly and gently swinging your arms – and then follow up by doing these stretches before and after walking, says Shannon Mescher, an exercise physiologist and Arthritis Foundation consultant. Try to hold each position (rather than bouncing) for 10 to 20 seconds, or after you feel a gentle stretch or tension. Hold on to a chair, light pole or other stable object for balance.
HAMSTRING AND ANKLE
Sit on the edge of a chair with your right leg extended, right heel on floor. Flex right foot and keep toes pointed up. Lean forward gently from your hips to feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Repeat with left leg.
Stand up straight, holding on to a chair. Put left leg behind you, keeping left heel on the floor. Bend right knee and lean toward the chair. You should feel the stretch in the calf of the left leg. Repeat with right leg.
Stand with legs slightly wider than shoulder width and hold on to a chair. With left foot facing forward, point right foot to right 45 degrees then lunge in that direction without letting knee go past toes. Repeat move on left side.
Stand up straight, holding on to a chair with your left hand for support. Standing to the side of the chair on your left leg, move your right leg to the front, side and back, tapping your toe at each point. Repeat with left leg.
Remember: Start by warming up, then stretch, walk, cool down and then stretch again.