In the US, nearly 80 million adults call themselves walkers-and half of these people consider themselves "fitness" walkers.

Problem: Most people don't know how to walk correctly for optimal health benefits. As a result, the activity is more difficult and less enjoyable than it should be, and you are at greater risk for injury.

Solution: With ChiWalking*—which is based on the traditional Chinese concept of maximizing the flow of "chi" (life energy) throughout

*ChiWalking is a registered trademark of Chiliving, Inc. your body—you allow gravity to help move your body in a relaxed and balanced way. This approach releases tight joints so that you are able to walk longer and more easily with less stress on your body.

By following these principles, even avid walkers can improve their technique while still gaining all the health benefits of regular walking, including increased heart strength and blood flow...greater agility and flexibility and proven reductions in risks for serious illnesses, including diabetes, Alzheimer's and some forms of cancer. How to get started…

Proper Walking Posture

To perform ChiWalking, you must first learn the proper posture so that your body is supported by your bones, ligaments and tendons rather than by muscles such as those in the low back and calves. This posture reduces the workload on these muscles, making your movements more energy efficient.

Step 1: Align your feet. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart and parallel. Soften your knees so they're not locked. If your feet naturally turn out, rotate each leg toward your centerline until each foot is pointing forward to reduce the risk for lower leg injuries.

Step 2: Align your upper body. Rest one hand on your belly button and the other just under your collarbone. Lift up your chest with your upper hand while pulling down your torso with your lower hand. This straightens your upper spine and opens up your chest, allowing you to breathe more fully.

Next, lift the forefinger of your upper hand straight up and rest your chin on it to align your neck with the rest of your posture.

Step 3: Level your pelvis. To do this, slightly lift your pubic bone by contracting your lower abdominal muscles (your waistband should be parallel to the ground). This stance prevents your pelvis from moving from side to side. Too much side-to-side movement can lead to hip bursitis (inflammation of small sacs of fibrous tissue called bursae) and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, a painful tightening of the IT band that runs from the hip to just below the kneecap.

Step 4: Tilt your "statue." Most people tend to lean back when walking, with their shoulders slightly behind their hips. In ChiWalking, the shoulders are held directly over the hips.

Helpful: Imagine that your upper body is one solid unit, like a statue. Now tilt your statue one-quarter-inch forward. As you do this, you'll feel your abdominal muscles engage—signaling that you're using your abdominals to stabilize your posture.

Now stand still and memorize this stance. Return to this stance whenever you are standing or walking.

Let Gravity Do The Work

Now you're ready to begin ChiWalking. After assuming your walking posture, shift your weight onto one leg, leveling your pelvis. Next, extend your unsupported leg behind you at a comfortable distance, resting your entire foot on the ground. You should find yourself in this position at the end of each stride.

Now, walk by picking up your feet instead of pushing off with your rear leg. Keep your posture tall and your shoulders forward.

As you practice this technique, keep these points in mind…

  • Always lean forward so you'll be drawn forward by gravity.
  • Keep your pelvis level, and don't lead with your hips.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent. Other important points…
  • Rather than swinging your arms forward, swing your elbows to the rear as you walk to counterbalance your forward lean. Slightly curl your fingers (to relax the hands and wrists).
  • To speed up, bend your elbows more and swing your arms faster.

Design Your Own Program

When creating a walking program, ask yourself: How many days would I like to walk each week? (My recommendation is to aim for at least three days a week and at least 30 minutes per walk.) What days work best for me? What time of day do I most enjoy walkingBy answering these questions, you'll develop a walking schedule that's right for you.

Your Walking “Menu”

For specific health benefits, try...

  • Cardio walk. Warm up with 10 minutes of easy walking (at a leisurely pace), then alternate one minute of faster walking and one minute of somewhat slower walking for 10 to 15 minutes. Finish with 10 minutes of easy walking.
  • Calming walk. Walk for 10 minutes at a very slow and relaxing pace, breathing out for six steps and in for six steps. (Breathe through your nose if possible.) Next, continue breathing this way as you visualize a waterfall flowing down your spine, washing all tension from your body. Hold this focus for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish by sitting silently for several minutes, watching the world go by.
  • Energizing walk. Walk at a relaxed pace for five minutes. As you do, practice "belly breathing

Here's how: Force all the air out of your lungs by pulling in your belly while blowing out through pursed lips, then relax your abdominals and allow your belly and then your chest to expand, filling your lungs from the bottom.

Continue belly breathing while visualizing a stream of energy rising up the back of your spine as you inhale...and the same stream flowing down the front of your spine as you exhale. Continue for 15 to 55 minutes, depending on how much energy you need. If you follow these steps properly, the longer you walk, the more energized you will become.

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