Did you know that your arms are very important for walking? But just how are they involved?
If we watch people walking around going about their business, we may notice a gazillion different ways in which people use their arms.
In walking, arms move contrary to the legs. The backward action of each arm is reflexive, meaning the muscles engage and the arm goes back automatically, when the opposite leg goes back. It just happens. But like all reflex actions, it can be interfered with. Just like you can keep touching something hot and not pull your hand away, you can stop the backward swing of your arms, and you can also overdo the movement.
Get up and walk around for a moment and see what you do with your arms. Yes, now! (After you’ve checked in with yourself and made your own decision to get up, of course! If you’ve been in my classes, you’ll understand that bit!) Anyhow, you’ve probably been sitting for a while and it’d be a good idea to get up! Do your arms swing?
If your arms don’t move as you walk, pay attention to what you are doing with your head. If you are pulling your head down toward your torso or pushing it forward, you’ll be tightening in your neck and limiting the ability of your arms to move.
In walking, shoulder movement and arm swing increase trunk stability and gait stability. That means that your balance will be better as you walk if you let your arms move. It is important to let them engage and move naturally backward and forward, though, and not pump them as if you were running, to keep your whole-body movement balanced.
Limiting arm swing also decreases the amount of movement the pelvis gets to do when you’re walking. The pelvis rotates, tilts and tips to allow the backward push and forward swing of your legs. Naturally moving arms counterbalance that movement to stabilize you, and unmoving arms restrict it. As movement becomes reduced, it gets harder to do. The pelvis becomes less happy about moving. Just think of all those movements the pelvis is involved in besides walking: squatting, sitting, sex, standing, getting up and down and more.
To sum it up, arm swing is a consequence of our walking gait, and it also contributes to balance and the movement health of the torso and pelvis. Walking is an activity that engages your whole body in a natural and essential way. So find lots of opportunities to walk and allow your arms to swing without interference!
If you’d like to learn more about how to walk, move or do any other activity with greater ease, join or schedule an online Alexander Technique class. I’ll also be teaching a walking class at The Women’s Club in Missoula, and I’m doing a limited number of in-person individual coaching sessions in Charlo and Missoula. Keep from getting a stiff neck and tired back by joining me in the Ease at the Computer course starting Wednesday, July 1. See all the class descriptions and times below.
Wishing you balance and swing!
DiscoverEase in Movement