By Ms. Pooja Bajaj, Sr. Neuro Physiotherapist & Mr. Prabhakar Pandey, Consultant, Orthotics, AktivOrtho™
Walking the correct way helps us to avoid fall-related injuries and improves our health and fitness levels. Walking is a great stress-buster and can be very therapeutic, but have you ever asked yourself. “Do I walk the right way?”
While sports and running are associated with various types of injuries, walking too can cause physical damage if you do not follow some basic rules.
The dynamics of walking
Whilst walking our balance relies on various senses working in tandem together – sight and touch communicate with the sensors in our inner ear that monitor movement, equilibrium and spatial orientation. Messages are sent to the spinal cord, which in turn governs how our muscles move. Injury, disease or ageing can affect one or more of these systems leading to a loss of balance, which can cause falls. A healthy sense of balance helps you to:
- adjust to unforeseen obstacles (e.g. a stone whilst walking)
- react quickly when you slip
- change direction quickly (e.g. if you have to pass by someone on a stairwell)
- feel confident of your step
Causes of frequent injuries whilst walking
Although our feet have been designed to adjust and manoeuvre on all types of uneven ground, we tend to stumble and fall if the coordination between the eyes, brain and feet fails. Apart from age-related conditions, fall and injuries may also happen due to lack of attention. You might be talking on your mobile phone or texting or listening music on headphones.
Elderly patients with a balance disorder are more prone to fall-related injuries and need to take extra care when walking, especially on an uneven or slippery surface. You have a balance disorder if you feel:
- the room spinning around you
- that you are moving when you know you are sitting or standing still
- you are losing your balance and about to fall
- light-headed or faint
- as if you have blurred vision
- disoriented, losing your sense of time and space
Our AktivBalance™ is a specially designed program which addresses the issue of falls in the elderly and treats balance-related conditions. Our physiotherapists can help with an early diagnosis. We can then manage your condition with a tailored rehabilitation program. Not only will this prevent falls but it will also contribute towards your overall well-being, both physically and mentally.
The right way to walk
To walk in the right way and to avoid injury, you need to follow some basic principles:
Avoid over-striding: We tend to over-stride to reach our destination quicker and we sometimes ignore the ground conditions. Over-striding leads to an artificial gait which can hurt your shins. If you want to walk faster, choose a path which is clear and smooth. Before you start walking quickly, warm-up or increase your speed slowly.
Wear the right footwear: Ill-fitting footwear is the main cause of walk-related injuries. Avoid high heels, shoes that do not support your feet or are uncomfortable, or shoes with uneven soles.
AktivOrtho provides a unique service offering customised in-soles. These are made in Germany, using European technology, and then adapted here in India to your exact requirements under the guidance of our expert podiatrist.
As strong and healthy feet are pre-requisite for smooth walking, we are committed to providing the highest standard of podiatry care whilst our proven physical therapy regimen ensures that your feet remain as healthy as you want. We use state-of-the art techniques involving orthopaedics, dermatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation to help our patients.
Use the right clothing: Badly-fitting or loose/long clothes such as lungi can also make you stumble when you walk. So wear more fitted clothes that do not hinder your walking pattern.
Avoid darker paths: Use well-lit paths/roads where you can see any obstacles. If you must walk on a darker road, carry a torch or use your cell phone light to see the path ahead.
Walk naturally & stay alert: Do not develop an artificial gait or copy someone’s walking style. Use your own natural pattern and walk slowly, steadily, smoothly and with full awareness of your surroundings. Keep your eyes ahead and down on the path and avoid any distractions. Texting and music on headphones not only cause injuries but they are highly dangerous and have led to several fatalities.
Walk with your head high & your spine straight: When walking, keep your posture straight so that your weight and balance are equally distributed between your feet. Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees and swing back and forth naturally. Always land your heel first and push off with your toes. Avoid any abrupt change of direction.
Lose excess weight: Excess weight can impede your walking and make it tiring or uncomfortable. Losing weight can make a difference and will help you to walk more easily.metabolic balance®, a German-developed weight management and personalized nutrition program exclusive to AktivOrtho in India, has experienced tremendous success and changed the lives of more than 700,000 participants globally.