Stretching Routine for Walking

Walkers can maintain their flexibility with these stretches

Male runner stretching leg in urban environment.
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Stretching can improve your flexibility and can make your walking more comfortable. This stretching routine targets the muscle groups you will use for good walking posture and mobility. Many walkers like to do a stretching routine at the start of their workout. Some also like to again stretch at the end, or do some stretches in the middle of long walks.

Stretching Guidelines

Warm up for 5 minutes at an easy walking pace before stretching.

Never stretch cold muscles or you risk tearing them. Incorporate mobility exercises designed to take a muscle and joint through its range of motion. Perform these stretches slowly. Only stretch as far as is comfortable. If you have any medical problem that makes it difficult to perform one of these stretches, you may want to ask your doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer for an alternate flexibility exercise.

Stretches and Mobility Exercise for Walkers

Find an upright pole or fence or wall that will support you for leaning into for some of these stretches and mobility exercises. You will start at the top of your body and work your way down.

Head Circles

  • Make quarter circles with your head.
  • Start with your ear near your shoulder on one side.
  • Rotate your head around to the front, ending with your ear near the shoulder on the other side.
  • Roll your head back to the other side.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.

    Arm Circles

    • With one arm at a time, make backward arm circle with your palm facing out, thumb pointed up.
    • Repeat 10 to 15 times with each arm.
    • Then make forward arm circles with the palm facing in, thumb pointed down, repeating 10 to 15 times with each arm.

    Hip Stretch

    • Stand up, take a half-step back with the right foot.
    • Bend your left knee and shift your weight back onto your right hip.
    • While keeping the right leg straight, bend forward more and reach further down your right leg.
    • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
    • Switch sides and repeat on the other side.

    Quadriceps Stretch

    • Stand erect, holding onto a wall for support.
    • Bend your knee behind you so that you can grasp your foot, holding your heel against your rear end.
    • Stand up straight and push your knee gently back as far as you can. The hand just keeps the heel in place, you don't pull with the hand. For some, it is more comfortable to use the hand from the opposite side.
    • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch to stretch the other leg.

    Calf Stretch

    • Stand an arm's-length from a wall or horizontal post.
    • Lean into the wall, bracing yourself with your arms.
    • Place one leg forward with the knee bent. This leg will have no weight put on it.
    • Keep the ​other leg back with the knee straight and heel down.
    • Keeping your back straight, move your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch.
    • Hold 30 seconds. Relax.
    • Repeat with the other leg.

    Soleus Calf Stretch

    • From the calf stretch position, bend the back knee so that the angle is changed to stretch the Achilles' tendon.
    • Keep your heel down.
    • Hold 15 to 30 seconds.
    • Then switch legs and repeat on the other leg.

    Leg Extensions

    • Facing a pole, hold on with both hands.
    • Bending at the knee, bring one leg forward, then extend and swing that leg back and behind.
    • Repeat 10 to 15 times, then switch legs.
    • Be cautious of hyperextending your lower back.

    Cross Over Leg Swings

    • Holding onto a pole or fence rail with both hands, face forward.
    • Swing one leg in front of your body gradually swinging higher.
    • Swing about 10 to 15 times with each leg.

    After stretching and mobility exercises, now you are ready to walk the main portion of your walk at your desired speed.

    Warm-Up Stretches Photo Step-By-Step: See a large photo and instructions for each of these stretches.

    Why Should You Stretch?

    Flexibility exercise can help you maintain your full range of motion for your muscle groups and joints. This is especially important as you age. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve your range of motion. Stretching combined with your walking routine can ensure that you get both stretching and moderate-intensity exercise.

    Sources:

    Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43(7):1334-1359. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e318213fefb.

    Stretches for Walking. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Stretches-for-Walking_UCM_461779_Article.jsp#.WaIVItGQzx8.

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