For new moms wanting to get back into cardio, one of the BEST activities you can do is walking because it increases circulation throughout the body which speeds up healing. When done properly, it also helps to stretch your hips and strengthen your glutes (remember…glutes strength also contributes to pelvic floor health).
In fact, walking is great for everyone and we should all be doing more leisurely walking a few times per week because it helps to lower cortisol, improve your mood, and reduce stress.
But how should you be walking in order to get the biggest positive impact on your body?
If you’ve suffered from pelvic floor issues or a lack of core strength, you may have already ditched your daily run, but don’t give up yet!
Instead of running, try walking. Walking is a great full-body, steady-state cardio activity. It also helps create conditions for a healthier core when done properly.
Walking with proper alignment can help you create a stronger, healthier core. How?
Let’s dive in!
Stronger Glutes and Happier Hips
Walking strengthens the glutes and stretches the hip muscles (and stronger glutes contribute to healthy pelvic floor function).
A stretch through the hip flexors, which tend to be very tight for most new moms, and engaging the glutes help to pull the core into proper alignment. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I preach about the importance of proper alignment for a healthy core.
Increased Circulation and Healing
Walking regularly improves your circulation and increased circulation can speed the healing of connective tissue and muscles. This is HUGE for both pelvic floor issues and diastasis recti (abdominal separation).
If you aren’t sure if your walk is aligned correctly then keep reading to find out how to check for it.
How to Walk With Good Alignment
Alright, I know you’re probably saying to yourself that you already know how to walk.
However, what you probably don’t know is how to walk properly. All the time we spend sitting shortens and tightens the hip flexors even more and the glutes get stretched and turned off. Those weakened muscles don’t perform as well as they should, leading to walking with suboptimal alignment.
The good news is that you can fix your walk by becoming more aware of it. Once you are more aware of your alignment then you go about adjusting your stride to encourage proper body alignment. Here are four things to look for when you’re walking:
1. Eyes In Front
When you walk, look ahead of you. Too often, we get wrapped up in what we’re doing…like staring down at the phone, kids, dogs, etc. What we really need to do is look to the horizon directly in front of us. That helps ensure that your body is upright and your head is in line with your spine.
2. Initiate Your Stride With You Hips
When you walk correctly, the movement should come from your hips and not by excessively bending your knees.
Don’t bend your knee and lift your leg when you walk. Focus instead on pushing off the foot and send the leg back behind you from the hip. You’ll notice that you are using your glutes more when you start walking from your hip and not from your knee. There will be a soft bend to it, but there shouldn’t be much force behind the bend.
3. Pelvis Stays Straight
Once you start walking from the hip, be sure to keep your pelvis stable rather than swaying side to side like a model strutting down the runway. You can sheer through the hip and SI joints too much when you sway side to side which can potentially create pain through the hip and pelvis. This is especially the case when your joints and connective tissue continue to be a little lax during those first few weeks and months postpartum or for however long you breastfeed.
4. Keep Legs Hip-Width Apart
For proper alignment to happen, your legs should remain hip-width apart when you walk. But how can you tell how wide apart your legs are? Try this test: Place your feet on each side of a sidewalk crack. Take a few steps forward and notice where your feet go.
If they move towards the crack when you walk, you need to work on keeping your legs at hip-width as well as release any tight muscles through the leg and hip that are causing your feet to move closer together. If your feet stay an even distance from the crack (or another line), you’re fine.
Also, be mindful of your foot alignment. Where are your toes pointing? Are you turning your toes outward? Are your toes turned inward? Your toes should be pointing forward.
5. Roll the Foot Heel to Toe
The heel of your foot should hit the ground before any other part of your foot. When you walk, you want there to be a rolling through the foot from the heel to the ball of the foot and then to the toes.
Also, try to notice which part of your foot hits the ground first. If it’s not your heel, make a conscious effort to change your stride and focus on having your heel hit the ground first.
6. Use the Foot to Push Off the Ground
You want your foot to push off the ground when you step rather than the foot sliding or shuffling along the ground. To make this happen, you need to focus on where your foot is hitting the ground first and adjust accordingly.
One more thing before I go, while walking is a tremendous form of cardio for moms who are working on healing any core and pelvic floor symptoms, it shouldn’t just end with correcting your walking form.
There is a reason why you are demonstrating poor walking form and much of it comes down to a lack of core stability which can happen as a result of pregnancy and lingering postpartum core issues.
Don’t just let this be another thing you simply assume is all part of being a mom! Take the time to invest in yourself and get your core foundation right!