For those who prefer high-intensity workouts, walking is often relegated to the warm-up for the main event. But for others who're new to exercise or want to go easy on their joints, walking may be the main event. If that's you, warming up is still important — it'll just look a bit different.
The American Council on Exercise suggests some form of movement preparation before any physically demanding activity, regardless of a person's fitness level. Doing a targeted warm-up wakes up your body and preps it for the workout to come by activating the parts of the body involved in walking — from the feet up through the trunk.
If certain parts of the body aren't prepared to take on the load of brisk, sustained walking (say, your calves), other regions may end up bearing disproportionately more load (like your ankles and knees). This is a common cause of overuse injuries from repetitive activities, like walking.
It can also be the difference between simple post-workout muscle soreness and more acute pain in or around joints.
Try the following warm-up to get you ready for your walking workouts. Over time, you may find that certain exercises feel more effective than other. These are the ones you should incorporate into your long-term program.
As with any other exercise program, it’s important to manage the load to your body. If you’re noticing excessive soreness or fatigue following your walks, the first step may be to modify your walking distance or speed.
And if you find yourself experiencing pain, be sure to consult a health care professional, such as a physical therapist or physician.
Move 1: Standing Toe Tap
- From standing, begin to tap your toes, alternating feet. Your heels should remain in contact with the ground.
- Repeat for 30 seconds.
As you gain comfort with this movement, introduce a speed component: Raise your toes quickly and lower them slowly for 30 seconds.
Move 2: Standing Heel Raise
- From standing, rise up on your toes.
- Lower with control to the starting position.
- Repeat for 30 seconds.
As you grow comfortable with this motion, introduce a speed component: Raise your heels quickly and lower them slowly for 30 seconds.
Move 3: Standing Skater
- From standing, shift your weight toward one leg.
- Slide the opposite leg backward at a 45-degree angle, almost as if pushing off on skates. This movement should be driven from the glute muscles of the same leg, but it shouldn't feel strenuous.
- Bring the leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Move 4: Walking Butt Kick
- From standing, alternate bringing one heel toward your butt. Lift the leg quickly and lower it relatively slowly to the ground, stepping forward as you do.
- Switch legs, kicking your foot back to your glute, then stepping forward.
- Continue walking, alternating legs, for 30 seconds.
This motion should be controlled, not dependent on momentum.