Experts explain whether we need to stretch before walking

Posted by for Strong Women

You wouldn’t run without warming up, so should you be heading out for a walk without mobilising first?

It’s no secret that a warmup before you go for a run or start a strength training session is crucial to ensuring peak performance and avoiding injury as you work out. Often involving mobility exercises, stretching, or low-intensity cardio, taking the time to warm up before exercising will help to get your muscles and joints ready to work hard. 

“Deciding whether we need to include stretching into our training regime depends on what you are aiming to gain from it,” says Hollie Grant, founder of Pilates PT. “If you are about to partake in an activity that requires good flexibility such as dance or gymnastics, then stretching could be helpful. If, on the other hand you are about to take part in something more cardiovascular based, such as cycling or running, you would be better off concentrating on warming up with lower intensity cardiovascular exercise.”

As lockdown continues in the UK, many of us have been getting our exercise in the form of a once-a-day walk. If this is how you chose to move, should you be warming up beforehand? 

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Power walking: "If your normal walking pace feels like a two or three out of ten for effort, power walking should feel more like a six or seven out of ten”

“A warm up is often a less intense version of what you are about to do, but as walking is already low intensity, warming up for it is less important,” says Hollie.

However, if you are about to go for a longer or faster walk, therefore increasing the intensity of it, or you experience pain or injury during your walks, then mobilising before hand might benefit you.

“If someone is particularly tight, has old injuries in their calves, hamstrings, quads or glutes, or usually have a very sedentary lifestyle, they may want to do some mobility exercises before heading out,” says Hollie. “But static stretching can have the effect of slowing down or switching off a muscle, and this is not what we want to be doing before a workout. Focus instead on mobility to prime the body for what it is about to do.”

How to stretch before a walk: 

Hollie recommends trying these mobility moves if you’re feeling stiff or simply want to optimise your walking. 

Calf raises

Your calf muscles are one of the main muscles utilised when walking and running. Get them warm by raising up on to your toes, feeling the stretch through the calf muscle, then lower again. 

Squats

Walking for long distances can be tough on the hips, so starting with some simple squats to engage and mobilise the joints will do wonders for your walking. 

Lunges

For the same reason, lunges are a great move to do before heading out. As they are a unilateral move, they’ll help with any imbalances, too. 

Ankle circles

Your ankles don’t only keep the feet moving, but are responsible for knee and hip stability. Mobilising the ankles can reduce full body pain.

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