Power Walking:
Is It A Step Too Far?

power walking is tough on the knees

Power walking is the new jogging. It's seen as a safer alternative to running with similar health benefits - but at a lower intensity. In thirty minutes you can burn up to 250 calories AND get a great cardio-vascular workout.

Does that sounds too good to be true?

Yes, I think it is!

Its supporters claim it's less likely to lead to injury than running, but I would argue that the advice given to power walkers can lead to long-term problems - I've seen them in my clinic.

Of course, daily exercise is good for you, but what about the type of activity? If you're going to spend half an hour doing vigorous exercise, do ensure you're not going to do yourself any damage. After all, what's the point in trying to keep fit if you injure yourself and end up not being able to do any activity?

When Does Walking Become Power Walking?

Visit any park and it won't be long before you see people pacing it out to keep fit.

Walking is a natural activity that the majority of us can manage from an early age until the end of our days. But walking has been transformed into a 'proper' exercise by creating a technique that increases the amount of effort required. Let's look at some of the advice.

1. Keep your head up, back straight and body aligned.
How would you follow this advice? I see people tightening their backs and fixing their posture. How do you know if your back is straight? If you knew how to align your body it would already be aligned!

2. Stride out, but don't lengthen your stride so much that your knees lock, which can lead to injury.
Any attempt to stride out will land your foot in front of your body increasing the stress on your knees - I would also challenge anyone to 'stride out' without locking their knees. Whether running or walking your feet should land under your body.

3. Walk with hand or leg weights.
What does walking with weights added to your arms or legs do to your body dynamics? How does it changes your normal walking or other activities? You'll build muscles to be used in a way that is not your natural movement. You can even buy weighted vests!

4. Pump your arms.
This action is generally done with the shoulders raised adding tension to the neck.

Do you need to do any of these actions to walk? Are they going to aid free, natural movement? On the contrary, they are most likely to interfere with breathing, movement of the joints and the action of your reflexes that coordinate the activity for you.

woman power walking Take a look at this photo.

Check where her foot lands, and which part of the foot hits the ground.

The heel strike landing in front of her body (with a straight leg) will send a shock up through the ankle, knee and hip into the back.

Her shoulders are also raised as she pumps her arms.

As mentioned before, none of these actions are necessary and will in the long run (or walk), lead to injury and worn out joints.

Why Walk When You Can Run?

Okay, I'll put my hand up and say I'm a runner. But I firmly believe that running is not only a much better way to get fit, it's also more enjoyable.

For a start, you can cover more distance and see more scenery. You'll also raise your heart rate to a higher level for increased benefit. But, with a good technique, you'll do far less damage to your joints and ligaments!

Yes, I know there are people out there who draw a sharp intake of breath when you mention the r-word, but it's perfectly possible to run with less strain on your body, than it is to power walk.

If you're tempted to start running, take a look at my beginners guide to running for a safe way to start.

Or if you'd still prefer to walk to stay in shape, try the exercise here, at walking for fitness


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