Walk to Work Day was recently held in London last 24 April 2008. Physiotherapists supported this event as a great opportunity to kick-start a more active lifestyle and help prevent health problems, such as obesity, heart disease and lower back pain.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy gives us five top tips for walking to work:
This is vital if you’re going to have a healthy walk to work and avoid any damage to your posture through unsuitable shoes or bags. Wear comfortable shoes and socks – if you wear high heels, walk in trainers and change at work. Carry a sturdy rucksack over both shoulders to spread the weight evenly over your body, making sure the straps are pulled short enough for the bag to fit snugly against your back.
Posture isn’t just about standing or sitting up straight, it’s also important when you’re moving. When walking, look straight ahead and don’t slump your shoulders. Pull your tummy muscles in as far as you can and then release them by 50 per cent. Hold them at this halfway point while you are walking to keep your spine well supported. Release them if you start to feel any discomfort and start again when this passes.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking it’s important not to get into bad habits. The correct stride for healthy walking is a heel to toe gait. As your foot hits the ground it should land on the heel and follow through to the toe. This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised by how many people do it the other way round.
After a while, walking to work should become a habit for you, rather than a novelty. This means walking to work rain or shine. You may need to change your routine slightly, such as setting your alarm earlier if walking adds time to your journey. Get yourself a waterproof jacket and an umbrella for those wet days, and tell yourself that with every step you’re doing your mind and body some good by being more active. Try taking different routes to work so that your walk doesn’t become tedious.
Don’t push yourself too early and get discouraged. Start by just walking to work as the awareness day suggests. Or walk half the distance and catch public transport the rest of the way, doing the same on your way home. Alternatively, park further away from work than usual and then walk in. Once you’re used to it, you can progress – e.g. walk the whole way to and from work, or try beating your personal best time.