Walking Tips from Mark Fenton

Walking Expert and Author Shares His Advice

The Complete Guide to Walking
The Complete Guide to Walking. Courtesy of Amazon.com

Whether you walk fast or slow, Mark Fenton's tips can help you walk better and healthier. He is a walking expert, former host of the "America's Walking" series on PBS television and author of numerous books including the bestselling "Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness." He gave these tips to walkers at the American Volkssport Association convention.

Five Quick Walking Technique Tips

  1. Good tall posture. Look forward, not down a the ground, with your chin level and head up.
  1. Tighten your stomach and flatten your back. Tilt your pelvis forward -no "shelf" out back. is can prevent low back, gluteal, and hamstring tightness.
  2. Quicker, smaller steps. Resist the temptation to lengthen your stride to go faster.
  3. Push off with your toes. Use the natural spring of your calf muscles to propel you. Think "I'm showing the bottom of my shoes" with each step.
  4. Bend your arms. A 90 degree bend at waistband-to-chest height. This makes your arms a shorter pendulum, so they can swing faster as your steps speed up.

Walking Shoe Advice from Mark Fenton

You're foolish not to buy a good walking shoe. There are many good designs from fitness walking shoes through hiking boots. You will want more flex in an athletic shoe, while you should look for more support in a hiking shoe.

  1. Twist them: Should be able to twist a bit (torsional flexibility).
  2. Bend them: Need more bend than a running shoe - in the forefoot, not the arch.
  1. Poke them: If you poke the toe, the heel comes off the ground. Push the heel down and the toe comes off the ground.
  2. How do you know when your shoe is worn out? Your shoe is worn out long before it looks like it is finished. The mid-sole foam has a limited life. Replace your shoes when you first notice the difference between a new pair and your old favorites.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Walking

    Should I use hand weights while walking?
    Don't bother. Hand weights are a great part of an exercise program, but use them to exercise 5-10 minutes AFTER your walk. Most people don't use the weights vigorously enough while walking to get the full benefit. Meanwhile, using them while walking can increase your blood pressure and may contribute to joint problems. They are definitely not to be used by anyone with a history of heart trouble.

    Should I use walking poles?
    Walking poles can lend stability on uneven trails. They help minimize hand swelling. They can enhance the level of the workout, but must be used vigorously.

    How much walking is enough?
    It depends what your goals are.

    1. To maintain health with regular physical activity: Walk 30 minutes/day most days of the week at a "talking" pace.
    2. Weight loss: Walk 45-60 minutes/day at a "purposeful/talking" pace.
    3. Aerobic and cardiovascular fitness: Walk 3-4 days 20 minutes at a very fast pace -breathing hard but not gasping.

    Do I have to stretch?
    It's equivocal - there are no clear studies to show that stretching enhances performance or prevents injuries. After a walk, gentle stretching can increase your range of motion.

    Recommend a hamstring stretch, a hip/calf stretch, a shin stretch, abdominal crunches, modified push-up or dip.

    Book: Complete Guide to Walking, by Mark Fenton. Find this book at online retailers or in bookstores.