The more I understand about the mechanics of walking and the benefits of walking correctly, the more I wish I’d had walking lessons in school. Seriously.
Take your arm swing for example. How often do you see people swinging their arms when walking? Normally they have them in their pockets, holding their phone, or (justifiably) carrying their shopping. Yet swinging your arms has so many benefits that we should all be doing it – and as often as possible. Here’s why.
Better balance. Swinging your arms is a crucial factor in keeping your body balanced as you walk because your arms help stabilise your head and act as a counterbalance to your legs. If you don’t use your arms, your body recruits other muscles that weren’t designed for the job, putting extra strain and stress on your body.
Immune support. A large part of your body’s defence against infection and disease is carried out by your lymphatic system. This intricate system of vessels relies on your body’s movement to work. It also has clusters of lymph nodes around your body including under your armpits. Just by swinging your arms you will be stimulating your lymphatic system and boosting your body’s defences.
Back health. Swinging your arms encourages the rotation of your shoulder girdle and torso. This gentle rotation combined with the counter rotation of your pelvis as you take a step helps mobilise your spine and keep your back muscles strong and healthy.
Increased speed. Your arm swing is one of the key accelerators for walking faster. Focus on your back swing, letting your arm relax on the way forward. The fuller and faster your arm swing, the speedier you’ll be. Adding a pair of Nordic walking poles provides an extra a turbo charge.
Shoulder mobility. Your shoulder joint is one of the most complicated joints in your body, with the greatest range of motion. Lots of people have shoulder problems as some time in their lives and swinging your arms whilst walking helps keep them healthy. Nordic walking has an even greater impact on your shoulder health because as well as strengthening the shoulder muscles themselves, it strengthens the muscles between your shoulder blades. This in turn improves your posture and helps stabilise your shoulders, both of which contribute to happy shoulders.
Shoulder pain is very common. Swinging your arms is a simple way of keeping them healthy and boosting your walking. So next time you’re out and about, swing your arms.
I’ve written more about arm swing, tops tips and common mistakes in my book, Let’s Walk Nordic.
My favourite biomechanics expert, Katy Bowman, has a good YouTube video on shoulders. Click here to watch it.