If you’re the kind of person who preps for a walk by throwing your shoes on and heading out the door, it may be time to rethink your routine. “Many people often skip stretching before walking because they consider walking to be a light or minimal intensity workout,” physical therapist Chanha Hwang, PT, DPT, CHC, founder and owner of Fatherly Health and Wellness LLC, told POPSUGAR. “The reality is that stretching before walking allows muscles to warm up, which increases range of motion and flexibility.”
And not just any kind of stretching, either. Rather than just holding a stretch for 30 seconds or a minute (aka static stretching), experts recommend doing dynamic stretching, which involves more active movement. Dynamic stretching is meant to warm up your muscles, not just stretch them out, which can actually lead to damage without proper preparation. “Think of our muscles similar to a rubber band,” said Dylann Craig, PT, owner of Impact Physical Therapy. “If you stretch them while they are cold, they are less pliable, but when heated up they are much more elastic.” Dynamic stretching improves blood flow to your muscles, helps to ease movement in your joints, and is an all-around better way to prepare your body for dynamic movements like walking, said Helene Darmanin, PT, DPT, CSCS, founder of Mama Bear Physical Therapy.
So before you hit the roads, the trails, the treadmill, or wherever you’re getting your steps today, take a few minutes to get your muscles warm and loose. Ahead, check out seven dynamic stretches that physical therapists recommend adding to your pre-walk routine to stay pain- and injury-free.