Walking… undoubtedly one of the simplest and cheapest forms of exercise there is. But, if you’re going for a long walk or hike, it’s important to loosen up those muscles and stretch them out first.
Adding a proper warm up and stretch before you start your walk will help to reduce the risk of injuries such as a pulled muscle, as well as helping to increase flexibility that helps to aid better walking technique.
Below, we’ve outlined 7 of the best stretches for walking that you can try when you next venture out on a long walk or hike.
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Best Stretches to do Before Walking or Hiking
1. Ankle Circles
Position yourself straight, both feet facing forward aligned with the hips. Raise one foot off the ground and lift in front of you, balancing on the other leg.
Flex the raised ankle through its full range of motions: up/down; left to right. Now rotate the foot from the ankle 5 times clockwise, 5 times anti-clockwise
Return foot to the floor and repeat for the other foot and ankle.
Complete 5 – 10 reps for each foot.
2. Arm Circles
Stand straight, arms at your sides. Raise both arms at 90 degrees on either side, forming your body in the shape of a letter “T”.
Rotate both arms backwards through a circle, starting small and increasing the size of the circle with each rotation of the arm. Rotate through 8 – 12 circles. Shake out your arms and repeat with 8 – 12 forward circles.
Complete 2 – 5 sets of each rep (one rep = one completed backward or forward rotation stretch).
3. Leg Swings
Position yourself as for Ankle Circles.
Raise one leg and swing it loosely backwards and forwards from the hip. Keep it relaxed as you do so, allowing it to swing like a pendulum but no higher than one foot off the ground.
Complete 15 – 20 swings and then repeat for the other leg.
4. Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Stand tall, back straight, feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your right foot behind you. With your right hand, reach back and grab your right foot, pulling it up towards your bottom and pointing your knee down towards the ground.
Hold for 15 – 30 seconds.
Return to start position, relax. Now repeat for the left leg. Complete 2 – 5 sets of each rep (one rep = both legs stretched).
If balance is a problem, perform this stretch next to a chair, wall, tree or any other stationary robust object and hold with your opposite hand. You will get a better stretch if you are less anxious about toppling over.
5. Groin Stretch
From an upright position with feet placed at shoulder-width, stretch your left leg forward into a lunge, bending your right knee towards the ground.
Hold for 10 – 15 seconds then repeat for the other leg.
Perform 5 – 8 sets per rep (one rep = one groin stretch for each leg).
6. Calf Stretch
Stand straight, feet at shoulder-width. Stretch your right leg behind you, keeping your heel on the floor as you do so.
Bend your left knee and lean forward, feeling the stretch in the calf of your right leg. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds. Return to standing position and repeat for the opposite calf.
Perform 5 sets per rep (one rep = one calf stretch on each side).
7. Overhead Stretch
Walking doesn’t only affect your leg muscles, it hits your back muscles too. The Overhead Stretch is a great exercise to relieve back tension and facilitate better posture.
Stand straight, facing forwards, feet aligned with your shoulders. Bend your right arm up and over your head, dropping down towards your left shoulder.
Grab your right elbow with your left hand and pull gently down in the direction of your left shoulder. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds then release the hold and return both arms to starting position. Repeat for your left arm.
Perform 5 sets of each rep (one rep = one stretch both right and left).
Stretch Routine for Walkers
Follow along to the stretch routine in the video below. This includes some fantastic movements and stretches to help improve your range of motion and things like lengthening your stride during walking.
Walking is a great exercise almost everyone can do. Adding some of these exercises to your regular routine before you set off can not only help in terms of increased flexibility and general body strength but can also empower you to get even more enjoyment from any jaunt you embark on out in the fresh air. Have fun!