The importance of walking by Alexander Evans

We all know that walking is physically good for us. During the past 18 months, we’ve become more aware of how beneficial walking is for our mental health. 

Walking has been influential to many creative artists and writers. It is said that Beethoven and Benjamin Britten all used their daily walks for inspiration. The German philosopher and poet, Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking’.

A recent Mintel report suggests that 25% of the UK population are now ramblers, up from 16% in 2018. 

Even in these times of fast travel, or maybe because of it, so many people from a wide variety of religious beliefs, walk to display their devotion and increase their spiritual understanding. Around the world, millions set out each year along the great pilgrimage routes.

Given how integral walking is to us, I feel it is important to walk as efficiently and effectively as we can. We all hold ourselves differently. Whether it’s due to pain or discomfort, a lack of flexibility and fluidity or forever looking down at our smart phones, the way we hold our bodies naturally impacts how we walk.

Walking is, for most, an unconscious movement, but it is all to easy to walk in a way that misaligns our bodies.

Instead of walking as though on a tightrope with rigid legs and feet, or leaning forward with our upper half with our shoulders hugging our ears, we can learn to walk freely again.

A tuina patient of mine complained of lower back ache and shortness of breath.  This usually fit and healthy 70 year old man was desperate to get back to playing golf. 

After observing his gait, I could see that he had tight hips, ankles, calves and toes.  I gave him a series of massages to release these and a range of different exercises and stretches to help connect him with is feet again and help him walk more easily. After just a week he was walking more easily and with little pain. After his second treatment, he left the clinic with his normal mobile gait, his back stopped aching and he was no longer out of breath.  Importantly he was able to play golf once again. 

Here are some videos to help you walk more freely:

Firstly, listen to your feet
And then lift your feet
You do the hokey-cokey
Finally, we’re ready to start walking

Hints, tips and tricks:

  1. Keep your head up, looking forward; the ground will still be there. 
  2. To understand how we are really walking – look at the soles of the shoes you wear the most. The parts which are more worn out give us clues to the areas that need attention.
  3. Check your arches, (or get someone else like your tuina practitioner or Podiatrist) to see if your arches have flattened or are highly arched. If so, you may need insoles to help support your feet, which will help you walk more effectively. You can obtain standard insoles from your local pharmacy or online or obtain a custom set specific to you from a specialist. Insoles will provide the support to your arches to allow for appropriate mechanical movement.
  4. Take time to stretch before and after walking. Stretching for longer than a minute will reap the best rewards.  As the well known song goes: ‘the foot bone is connected to the leg bone…’ therefore, just stretching the feet will at least effect our lower leg.
  5. Use a ball under your feet to do a self-massage on your feet. Roll the ball under your bare feet, focusing on the arch and rolling the ball from front to back. The ball can be firm like a golf ball or soft like a tennis ball. Play around with what feels good for you. 

Walking can be a meditation, especially walking in nature. I urge you to stand on grass for a few minutes in your bare feet, when we next have good weather. This is a great practice for grounding and connecting us back to our feet.

I was once given a gift I think worthy of sharing with you “How to walk” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

I hope you found this useful and it inspires you to enjoy walking again.


Alexander Evans heads the Tuina Diploma Course at CICM. This course is open to third year acupuncture students and qualified acupuncturists.
Our next course starts October 8th 2021, and there are limited spaces available.

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