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Walking Well: Look Ahead to Feel More Confident Walking

By Claudine Aherne December 01, 2023 Health and Fitness

Would you like to feel steadier on your feet when you’re out and about? Would you like to stand up taller and feel more confident when you’re taking a walk?

If you’re starting to feel unsteady, you’ll know how much this can affect your enjoyment of walking.

When you’re worried about tripping or falling you miss out on things. You aren’t so engaged in conversations with your companions, and you don’t notice your environment so much.

I’ve been a specialist exercise instructor for over 15 years, and I’ve helped hundreds of people to feel steadier on their feet and more confident with their walking.

In this series of articles and videos for Sixty and Me, I’m going to share some of what has helped them, and I hope it will also help you to feel more confident when walking.

Why Walking Well Matters

Walking well is so important. When we feel more confident walking, it’s easier to get places, run errands, and walk for pleasure.

We can enjoy our companions and keeping a conversation with them because we aren’t worrying about tripping or falling.

When we walk well, we can enjoy our surroundings, especially if we’re out walking in nature. We can notice the colours of the leaves on the trees, the flowers blooming, and the birds in the sky.

And, especially right now, walking just gets us out of the house. It helps to calm anxiety and reduce stress.

What can you do to improve your walking? Will anything help? Yes! There are many things you can do if you’re starting to struggle with your walking. Let’s explore them below.

Work on Your Walking Technique

It seems odd to think about ‘how’ we walk. It’s something we learnt how to do when we were small and, in most cases, haven’t given much thought to since.

If you’ve got this far in the article, then you probably want help with your walking. In that case, you will benefit from paying a little attention to how you walk.

I’m covering five tips for walking well in this Sixty and Me series. In a previous article and video, I shared my suggestions for how to improve your posture and feel more confident when walking.

As well as posture (and very much linked to it), we want to start thinking about where we look when we walk.

The temptation, as we start to feel unsteady, is to look down when we walk. It feels like it will keep us safer and help us to avoid trips and falls. In this video, I explain how this is not actually the case and why we should be looking straight ahead when we walk.

Walking Well: Look Ahead

Practice this now (yes, right now!), even if you only have space to take a few steps back and forth!

Then, when you’re next out for a walk, make a point of trying to look ahead more than down.

When You Should Ignore This Advice

Looking ahead when you walk does improve your posture, it does change your centre of gravity, and makes you less likely to fall.

However, there are times when we do recommend you to look down.

For example, if you’re walking on particularly uneven ground, or there are many obstacles or trip hazards on the ground.

Also, if you’re wearing a mask, as many of us are right now, then you might need to actively look down a bit more. You may have noticed that wearing a mask affects your peripheral downward vision. So you need to take extra care when navigating kerbs, steps, or uneven ground.

When you do need to look down, try to look with your eyes first, then tilt your head as needed. The more you round your upper back and adjust your posture, the more you will change your centre of gravity. This makes you more vulnerable to trips and falls.

You Can Train Your Balance

Many people assume that deteriorating balance is just a normal part of ageing. As a result, they accept it and don’t work to maintain or improve their balance.

In fact, you can improve your balance at any age. One of the best ways to do this is with regular balance training exercises.

Here’s an example of one of the most popular balance training exercises from our online exercise Studio.

Tandem Stand with Head Turns

The Tandem Stand is a popular balance training exercise, so you may have done it before. Adding in head turns provides an additional challenge.

If you aren’t sure how balance training should feel (it’s different from other types of exercises), take a look at this article where I explain how it should feel when you do balance exercises.

When you’re doing this exercise, think about standing up tall and looking straight ahead. Stand next to a support which you could hold onto if you start to feel unsteady.

If the tandem position is too challenging for you, move from a ‘tightrope’ position (one foot directly in front of the other) to a wider stance (one foot in front and slightly to the side).

I hope this will help you to enjoy walking well and the pleasure and freedom it gives you!

If you would like more exercises to improve your balance, the Vida Wellness Studio now offers a FREE 14-day trial.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you find yourself looking at the ground more than you used to? Do you feel you are walking more slowly or more cautiously than before? Please join the conversation below!

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The Author

Over the last 16 years, Claudine has helped hundreds of people to improve their balance, feel stronger and move more easily. That's why her in-person classes and online programmes have been featured globally, including on BBC Radio 4. Members of her online exercise studio enjoy an extensive library of easy-to-follow videos, as well as advice and support. Try some taster videos from the Vida Wellness Studio.

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