Walking is one of the safest and most accessible exercises for improving your overall health. Whether you’re a beginner going from the couch to your first 5K or regularly walk long distances, it’s important to check in with your foundation.
Setting aside time to evaluate your posture and walking form, build strength and improve your mobility and stability can help you walk faster and farther — all while reducing the risk of developing common walking injuries like lower back strain and shin splints.
Physical therapists share 10 essential walking exercises to add to your weekly workout routine:
“Lateral stepping strengthens your hip abductor and lateral glute muscles, which are key for maintaining stability when you’re walking or standing on one leg,” says Dan Giordano, certified strength and conditioning specialist, physical therapist and co-founder of Bespoke Treatments. Keeping these muscles strong can help reduce your risk of knee pain and plantar fasciitis, which can pop up due to weakness in your hips.
“This exercise helps improve your balance and your posture while challenging your core and hip muscles to keep your body in place throughout the movement,” says Austin Misiura, certified strength and conditioning specialist and physical therapist.
Your big toe is super important for walking as it controls much of the strength and balance of your five toes combined. This exercise helps you increase strength in your big toe flexor as well as your calves and arch muscles, which, in turn, could help reduce your risk of injuries from excess strain on other muscles.
This walking exercise helps improve your balance, strengthens your knees and makes sure your walking gait is on track with your knees bending straight over your second toe, says Misiura.
“This sit-to-stand exercise helps strengthen your knees and hips and improve balance,” says Giordano.
“This exercise activates the complex muscle systems that work together to move your body forward during walks known as anterior and posterior oblique slings,” says Misiura. In turn, this helps improve your coordination and prep your walking muscles.
“Clamshells help strengthen your hip abductors and glute muscles, preventing common injuries related to decreased pelvic control like knee pain and plantar fasciitis,” says Giordano.
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Glute bridges target your largest glute muscle, the gluteus maximus, which controls your hip extension. “This movement propels your body forward when you’re walking by generating the power your body needs to push off of the ground,” explains Giordano.
“The ever-popular plank helps strengthen your core, which is key for powering your body forward when walking and maintaining stability,” says Giordano.
Side planks strengthen your oblique muscles and hip muscles, which help stabilize your core and pelvis throughout your walks. “Strong obliques will help you maintain a healthy posture and reduce your risk of injury in your lower back,” says Giordano.
For more inspiration, check out “Workout Routines” in the app to discover and log a wide variety of routines by UA Performance Specialists. Or build your own routine with exercises that fit your goals.