Warm-Up Stretching Routine for Walkers

Warm-Up Stretching Routine

Stretching Overhead
Jordan Siemens / Taxi / Getty Images

Gentle stretching can be part of your walking routine. Opinions and research conclusions vary as to when to stretch and what the benefits of stretching may be. Traditionally, you would do these gentle stretches after five minutes of walking at an easy pace, as part of your warm-up. You may wish instead to do stretching and flexibility exercises separate from your walking activity.

For these stretches, locate a pole or wall.

We will go from head to toe and incorporate both static stretching and dynamic flexibility.

Head Circles - Walking Warm-up Stretching Routine

Head Circles
Head Circles. Wendy Bumgardner © 2007

We start at the top to loosen the tension in your neck so you will be able to have good walking head position and posture. Remember to keep your motions smooth and gentle when doing stretches for your head and neck.

Quarter circle head stretch

  • Start with your ear near your shoulder on one side.
  • Rotate your head around to the front, then continue with the rotation to the other side, ending with your ear near the opposite shoulder.
  • Now repeat starting on that side, gently rolling your head back to the other side.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Arm Circles - Walking Warm-up Stretching Routine

To get ready to use good walking posture, you will want to loosen your shoulders and upper back with these arm circles. Do these smoothly and with slow to moderate speed.

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

Hip Stretch - Walking Warm-up Stretching Routine

Hip Stretch
Hip Stretch. Wendy Bumgardner © 2007

This stretch focuses on the hip flexor muscles which you use in walking to bring your leg forward.

  • Stand up, take a half-step back with the right foot so you are in a lunge position.
  • Bend your left (forward) knee and shift your weight back to your right hip until you feel the stretch. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • While keeping the right (rear) leg straight, deepen the stretch to reach further down your right (rear) leg. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Stand up and switch legs, stepping a half step back with the left foot and bending your right (forward) knee into the stretch for ten seconds.
  • Again deepen the stretch and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Quadriceps Stretch - Walking Warm-up Stretches

Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Standing Quadriceps Stretch. &copy: The Image Bank / Getty

For this stretch, you may want to find a wall, fence or post that you can use for stability as you will be balancing on one foot. The quadriceps muscles are used in walking, but they especially get a workout with hill climbing and stair climbing.

  • Stand erect. You may want to brace your hand against a wall or post.
  • Bend your knee behind you so that you can grasp your foot, holding your heel against your buttocks. If you are flexible, you can do this with the hand on the same side as the upraised foot. If you are less flexible you may find it easier to use the opposite hand, or even to use an exercise band or towel to extend your reach.
  • Stand up straight and push your knee gently back as far as you can. Don't add pressure with the hand, you are just using that to keep the heel in place during the stretch.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then gently release your foot, stand on both feet, and repeat with the opposite foot.

Gastrocnemius Calf Stretch - Walking Warm-up Stretching Routine

Gastrocnemius Calf Stretch
Gastrocnemius Calf Stretch. Wendy Bumgardner © 2007

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

Soleus Calf Stretch - Walking Warm-Up Stretching Routine

Soleus Calf Stretch
Soleus Calf Stretch. Wendy Bumgardner © 2007

From the same position as the gastrocnemius calf stretch, bend the rear knee and hold for 20 seconds.

Repeat with the other leg.

Leg Extensions - Walking Warm-Up Routine

Leg Extensions
Leg Extensions. Wendy Bumgardner © 2007

You can do leg extensions when facing the wall or pole, or with it at your side.

  • Bending at the knee, bring one leg forward, then extend and swing that leg back and behind.
  • Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs.
  • Be cautious of hyperextending your lower back.

Crossover Leg Swings - Walking Warm-Up Stretching Routine

Leg Swings
Leg Swings. Wendy Bumgardner © 2007

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

Resume Your Walk - Warm-Up Stretching and Flexibility Routine for Walkers

Solo woman walking across bridge
Jim Cummins / The Image Bank / Getty Images

These stretches and flexibility exercises will now have helped loosen you up for a good walking workout or race.

Traditionally, you would repeat the stretches after you finish and cool down.

Research has mixed results as to when to stretch before or after a workout, so you may instead want to do a stretching and flexibility routine separately from your workouts.

For people over age 65, the American Heart Association recommends ten minutes a day of stretching your major muscle groups to maintain your range of motion.

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