Common Mistakes Walkers Make

Tracy Hampton, PhD

BIDMC Correspondent


Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise that takes no real athleticism, requires no fancy equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. Still, there are certain things to keep in mind when heading out for a walk. Even when walking, it can be easy to overdo it if your body isn’t well prepared.


“One of the most common mistakes walkers make is not cross-training,” says Bridget Quinn, MD, a primary care sports medicine and emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Whenever an individual does the same repetitive movement, they are at risk for developing imbalances. While walking is certainly a lower impact form of exercise, walkers also need to work on core and trunk strength and stability, mobility, and overall general conditioning.”


Dr. Quinn also notes that many people who start walking more during the warmer months may not take simple precautions to keep their bodies in balance.


“As the weather heats up, walkers are at risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion,” she says.


Drinking plenty of water or other non-caffeinated fluids before, after, and even during long walks can help keep the body hydrated, while walking in the mornings or evenings or on shaded routes during the hotter parts of the day can help with cooling.


And while walking is something that can be done in bare feet, it’s important to have proper support when walking for any real distance and when walking on surfaces such as sidewalks or wooded paths. There are many available options, and many shoe manufacturers even make shoes specifically for walking.


“Similar to runners, walkers should also have their gait assessed to make sure they are in the appropriate attire,” says Dr. Quinn.


Posture is also important: keep your head lifted, your stomach pulled in, and your shoulders relaxed.


According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, every week, in addition to muscle-strengthening activities. There’s no need to do all at once — the CDC says it’s fine to do physical activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time. The American Heart Association notes that it’s important to begin with short distances and gradually increase your time or distance each week by 10 to 20 percent by adding a few minutes or blocks.


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted June 2014