Should You Stretch Before Walking For Exercise?

Maybe you need to get started on your walk early to beat the rain, or get to the chores you’ve been putting off? But the truth is if you are in such a hurry that you don’t have 5 minutes, you should put it off anyway. Stretching before walking for exercise is no myth and helps avoid injury and a lot of undue soreness.

Any workout warrants a few minutes to warm up your body before starting and can save a lot of aches and pains afterward. If you are walking an hour a day to lose weight you are putting a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. While it may not be the same as warming up some workouts, I consider it essential. Your walk will be much easier and more productive with as little as 5 minutes spent getting your body ready. 

Is Stretching Before Walking The Same As Warming Up?

When it comes to walking, stretching is warming up. It’s increasing circulation and lubricating joint before you put your muscles and body into action. Here is an article about warming before you run, which you can implement for walking. Whether you are outside or using your favorite cardio machine, it’s always a bad idea to skip this part of your workout. It only takes a few minutes to protect yourself against strains and pulled muscles.

Flexibility is a key component of fitness and becomes more important with age. The reason we are stiff after inactivity is because muscles quickly shrink. Any exercise, along with aging, tends to shorten muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Stretching works to get them elongated, back to the proper link, and puts your body on notice that something is about to happen.

Stretching Massages Your Body

When you have been sitting at a desk, or just being inactive, your body is cold and tends to be stiff. Starting out with cold muscles means they are enduring far more stress than if they were warm. On the other hand, just a few minutes warm cold muscles and makes your walk easier because the range of motion is increased. 

Think of stretching as massaging your body. You will elongate muscle fibers and work out knots that accumulated. I can’t imagine a reason not to do this for a few minutes post-exercise and when I’m through.

6 Dynamic Stretches

These 6 simple exercises target the most used muscles when walking. The whole drill won’t take more than 3 or 4 minutes, so why skip them?

  • Loosening Ankle Joints. Find a chair, table, or tree to balance with one hand and lift one leg out in front of you. Just getting the foot off the ground is sufficient to start making circles with your foot. Go one way for 6-10 rotations, then the other. Now swap legs and do the same.
  • Gentle Kicks. Slowly kick one foot out in front of you from your hip. Not as if you are kicking at something, but just gently swinging your entire leg from straight down out in front of you. A foot or so off the ground is plenty. Do each leg about 15 times.
  • Figure 8s. These are like the kicks above, only keep your foot a few inches off the ground and do about 15 figure 8s. The center of the figure should be below your hip so that your foot is going both in front of and behind you. 
  • Pelvic circles. With your hands on your hips, feet apart, and knees bent slightly, rotate your hips in circles. Go all the way around pushing your pelvis forward, backward, and to the left and right. Gently push your hips out there with each rotation, and go both directions. 
  • Loosening Arms and Shoulders. Extend both arms out from your side. Make circles with first your wrist, and then your entire arm. Picture yourself as the letter T here and rotating your arms both ways 10-20 times each way.
  • High Stepping in Place. Just start stepping in place now. I like to take a couple of normal steps in place and then finish by lifting my knees higher and higher. Take about 20 steps.

I see some blog post dismisses warming up and stretching before a walk, and based on my own experience I disagree with them. When I skip this part of my exercise I often find that my shins ache and burn or I have tight hamstrings a few minutes in. So, I wind up stopping and doing it in the middle of my walk. That’s why I say go ahead and limber up before you begin.

Once you get used to stretching before walking, you will find it helpful before any physical activity. They are dynamic which just means a lot of body movement and include simple things like swinging your arms, legs, rotating your shoulders and hips. You will notice right away how much better it feels to start walking or exercising when your body is already flexible.

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