Warm-ups and stretching routines aren’t just for those running a 10K. Any physical activity – even a leisurely walk – can lead to achy, sore, and stiff joints or muscles. This is true for the occasional walker as well as those on their feet all day, each and every day. So, as tempting as the sunshine and blue skies might be outside, it’s wise to take a few minutes to prepare the body before heading out and then again to cool down when you return.
A few minutes of stretching can provide a wealth of benefits. It can boost flexibility and range of motion, improve performance, reduce post-exercise soreness, and decrease your risk of injury. Stretching helps you feel even better over the long run and makes you more capable and motivated to keep it up.
As a general rule, it’s smart to warm muscles up with approximately five minutes of low-intensity activity, such as marching in place, before you stretch. You could also work stretching in by walking slowly for a few minutes beforehand. Once your muscles are warmed up, gently stretch the major muscle groups that you work regularly, such as calves, hips, thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors, and the lower back. Popular stretches for walkers include loose front-to-back leg swings, ankle circles, standing hamstring stretches, quad stretches, and calf stretches.
Aim to hold each position for 30 to 60 seconds, but don’t bounce as this can cause injury. When stretching muscles, strive for light tension only and always avoid positions that cause pain. Though positions may feel slightly uncomfortable, it’s essential to breathe normally the entire time. Stretching routines – like workout routines – should be adapted and adjusted based on each individual’s needs.