2010-07-02 / Columnists

Rockaway Walks Fitness Column

Walking For Fitness Skills And Techniques Improves Posture (Core)
Commentary By Steven McCartney, IPO, HSW, MS

Thanks to all of you who came out to Rockaway Walks fourth annual kickoff June 26 and anyone who plans to participate in the next eight Saturdays until August 28. Start time has been changed to 7 a.m.

It is a delight to bring people together who are looking to make healthy lifestyle changes; plus setting goals that are aligned with First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against obesity, “Eat Less and Move More” (fewer unhealthy food choices and more leisure time activities that are measurable and fun). Overall I will present proven core training techniques that are essential to anyone like you who’s ready to start a physical fitness program and needs a support team.

No matter what your present fitness level or physical activity plans, it is important to include a warm-up and cool-down (includes stretching). Also, for every 15-20 minutes of any activity you must increase your water intake (water promotes movement and prevents dehydration). Present recommendation for staying physically active should be measurable by intensity (Self-Talk Test, Borg scale 1-10, or your age predicted target heart rate). The duration (15-60 minutes), intensity (55-90 percent Maximum Heart Rate), frequency (3-5 times a week, progress according to fatigue and heart rate) and type (aerobic weight or non-weight bearing) will help improve the way our body metabolizes energy (healthy food choices) and manages many health issues. Now is a perfect time to Exercise To Improve Flexibility, Strength and Endurance (The Wave, October 2009). Remember to consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

Research shows that walking is a great way to start being physically active. However, little is said on the fundamental skill and technique for good posture and body alignment and gait for fast walking motion.

Let’s look at how walking for fitness may become an effective abdominal muscle exercise (Core) to improve your posture. When you increase your walking speed you gradually improve your posture. By walking faster (double time) your head should be level and directly above your body looking straight ahead (avoid looking directly at the ground). Avoid tension in your neck and jaw. The chest should be up, the back straight, shoulders back, and abdomen pulled in (increase with deep ventilation). Your face should be bent at a 90-degree angle with your palms facing inward with the hands in a relaxed fist position.

From the ground up the heels should contact the ground first; then the foot should roll forward across the soul of the foot from heel to toe and push off from the toes. Your arms will swing naturally and comfortably forward and backward between leg motions. Each arm should remain fairly close to your body and swing in a natural path. As you swing each arm forward, the hand should rise to the level of your rib cage and it is important they not cross the midline of the body. On the downward (backward) swing, stop your hands around the waist (hip area).

The hip movement does not need to be exaggerated but as you adapt (about the fourth week) and become stronger and more flexible, allow the hips to rotate more to lengthen the stride. With the increased length in stride, the hip, chest, and shoulder rotation will increase, to counterbalance the leg motion. Over time the phenomenon will gradually develop (you don’t have to exaggerate the twisting). Walking for Fitness gradually becomes quite an effective abdominal muscle exercise.

As the activity becomes more spontaneous (from practice) you get stronger and more flexible, and your stride length will naturally increase. The length of the stride should be comfortable and efficient for your height and size.

I will be instructing at York College’s Summer and Fall 2010 Continuing Education, “Walking for Fitness – Introduction to Walk Zone 1 Mile Synchronized Walking Protocol.” It’s a great way to learn how to work out smarter. Otherwise I will see you at Rockaway Walks, Beach 11 Street (7 a.m.) every Saturday until August 28. On behalf of this year’s sponsors – Modell’s Sporting Goods, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, Peninsula Hospital Center, Addabbo Health Center, Stop N Shop, Affinity Health Plan, Mona vie, Office Max, Councilman James Sanders Jr., Healthy Lifestyle Changes, Inc. and The Wave newspaper – have a healthy 4th of July.

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