A simple walk to the mailbox on a daily basis could be a powerful way to stay healthy -- if you couple it with the proper arm swing. Unlike other exercises, the simplicity of walking while paying attention to how you swing your arms could really help you tone those needed areas and burn calories. Most importantly, this exercise doesn't require you to go to a gym, and you can perform it at your convenience.
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Human gait involves the creation of movement using your limbs -- both your legs and arms. Understanding how your gait functions during a simple walk can save you the hassle of adding unnecessary stress to other parts of your body. In a study published in the July 2009 edition of the "Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal," researchers found that varying the momentum of your arm swing may provide benefits to your physical well-being.
Natural Arm Swinging
Physiologically, your body compensates for the rate or pace at which you are walking with the proper thrust of your arms, creating a natural and comfortable stride. Muscles in your shoulders actively engage in helping you to reach your destination, without bringing added tension to other parts of your body. If you increase the pace at which you're walking, your arm swing should compensate for that increased momentum by swaying out of phase with your legs. When your right leg steps forward, your left arm should move backward with an equal momentum, and the same rule applies when your left leg moves forward and your right arm moves backward. These swings of your arms help to thrust you forward and make walking easier on other parts of your body. By bringing awareness to your gait, you can use the complementary thrusts of your legs and arm swings to get to your destination and burn off calories to help keep you fit.
Improper Arm Swing
Although walking can seem very simple, if your arm swing is out of sway with your leg thrust, you could overwork or even injure other parts of your body. According to Dr. Sokunthea Nau, a physical therapy expert, bio-mechanical errors in your stride, physiological impairments and natural exercise regimens contribute to most walking or running injuries. When your arm swing technique is off, you risk adding more stress to other parts of the body. Arm swinging affords your body the proper thrust it needs to help transport you to your destination, and it also provides your core the proper balance it needs, preventing fatigue.
Proper Arm Swinging
In a study published in the January 2000 issue of the "Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association," Dr. Howard Dananberg suggested that proper walking technique involves smoothly transitioning the core of your body from behind your weight-bearing foot to in front of it while adding the corresponding arm swing. Once your arms are swinging in conjunction with the pace of your lower body, your arm swing should not cross the center of your body. Your body is divided into left and right halves by an imaginary line called the saggital plane. If your arm swing crosses this space in front of you, it adds stress to your lower back as well as your core. If you use moderation, you could alternate normal arm swings with cross-core arm swing movements to give yourself a total-body workout.