Do you sometimes feel unsteady on your feet? Have you noticed that you walk more slowly and cautiously? Would you like to feel more confident when you’re out walking?
If you’re starting to notice your balance when you walk, you’ll know how much this can affect your enjoyment of walking.
In the last 17 years as a specialist exercise instructor, I’ve helped hundreds of people to feel steadier on their feet and more confident with their walking.
I know that walking well matters, which is why I’ve written a series of articles to help Sixty and Me readers feel more confident walking.
Walking well is crucial to our ability to go places and do things. We need to maintain our ability to walk well for as long as possible.
When we feel steadier on our feet, we’re happier walking to get places, going out to run errands, and walking for pleasure. We can enjoy our surroundings and companions because we aren’t worrying or feeling unsteady.
Walking allows us to see more of the people we care about, explore new places, and connect with nature. It gets us out of the house and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
It’s also so important for how we feel about ourselves. When we’re confident walking, we can do more of the things we want and need to do. We feel better about ourselves and more optimistic about the future.
It’s a long, long time since we learnt how to walk. We’ve carried on walking for the last 50, 60 or 70 years without giving it a second thought. I know it’s a bit strange, and perhaps slightly frustrating, to have to think about how we walk.
But, if you’re starting to notice your balance when you’re walking or don’t feel as steady as you used to, you will benefit from paying attention to how you walk.
Walking well means thinking about our posture and our overall walking technique. Taking some time to learn about and practise walking well will help you for many years to come.
And, while I know practising walking sounds a little funny (I know you’ve been doing it for more than 50 years!), a little bit of time spent practising at home will pay off when you’re out and about.
The video above explores what we need to do with our arms when we walk, and how this can help us to walk well. When we think about walking, we mostly think about what our legs and feet are doing. Walking should be a full-body activity, and we can all use our arms to improve our walking.
Practice this now at home (yes, I mean NOW!). See how different your walking feels when you swing your arms (make sure the swing is coming from the shoulder, not the elbow).
Then, next time you’re out walking, try and remember to keep those arms swinging. You’ll feel more powerful and confident when you do so.
I love a good handbag as much as the next person. Large ones, small ones, clutches, over the shoulder and cross-body bags… keep them coming!
However, carrying things does get in the way of us using our arms when we walk. Having a bag in one hand, or even over one shoulder, makes it much harder for us to swing our arms properly and walk well.
If you’re just going out for a walk, try and fit anything you might need (keys, phone) in your pockets. You’ll feel lighter for not having a bag on your shoulder, and your walking will be better.
If you’ve got shopping or other items to carry, consider a backpack. I know it might not feel that fashionable, and it may be years since you last used one. However, think about how great you’ll look standing up tall and walking confidently.
Plus, having your arms free for swinging, or holding on if needed, will reduce your likelihood of tripping or taking a tumble.
Once you’ve mastered the arm swings, you’ll probably want to do more to improve your walking and feel steadier on your feet.
If you want to improve your walking and balance further, the recommendation is to perform targeted exercises.
If you aren’t already doing regular strength and balance exercises, consider adding these to your routine.
There’s lots of evidence that combining strength and balance exercises will help you improve your balance and reduce your risk of falls.
Many people think that starting an exercise programme involves an hour of leaping around in Lycra every day, sweating, while someone shouts at you. Forget about that!
You can get stronger and improve your balance with just 10 minutes of exercise a day, and you get the best results when you’re doing movements selected for you (not designed for a 25-year-old gym bunny!).
A good exercise instructor will encourage you to work at the right pace for you. They will demonstrate the routines clearly so you feel confident doing the exercises that will help you.
If you want help and support to exercise at home, take a look at the Vida Wellness Studio. It’s an online exercise studio for people who wish to improve their balance and posture, feel stronger, and move more easily. Our videos are clear and easy to follow, and most of our routines are 10-15 minutes long, so you can easily fit them into your day
Do you notice your walking more than you used to? How different does it feel when you swing your arms while you walk? Are you already doing strength and balance exercises?
I too would like to know your thoughts about using walking poles.
That’s a great question, Carolyn. I think they’re great. They really help with balance and posture and you use more muscles when you’re walking. If you do walk with poles, make sure they are the right height for you and just watch a tutorial video so you are fully informed before you head out. I’m hoping to do a video or two on walking poles soon, as we’ve had a few questions from Studio members as well. Thanks again!
I appreciate the timing of this article. It’s been 20 years since my strict walking routine and I’m ready to take it up again. I love the ideas I can use in order to get a full body workout. I was thinking about using walking poles since I have frequent(!) falls. Your thoughts on this?
Thanks Laura, I’m pleased to hear you’re thinking about getting out walking again!
Yes walking poles can be great, if used correctly. Please check they are at the right height for you and you’ve followed a tutorial video before using them.
I’d also suggest performing regular strength and balance exercises to help with your falls.
Click here for our free 4-week Balance Boost video series which will help you.
If you want to improve your walking stamina, we have an amazing Walking Stamina Builder programme in our online exercise studio and community. We also have a number of videos around Building Balance and Confidence, Walking Well and a wide selection of Better Balance exercise videos.
Wishing you all the best getting back to walking!
Thanks this was interesting!
My pleasure, Sue!