Spring back into action: stretching exercises for walks and strolls in the springtime

28. April 2023

spring back into action: stretching exercises for walks and strolls in the springtime

The clocks have gone forward. The lighter nights are here. The weather is finally starting to get warmer.

You might be finding yourself with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for getting outdoors and enjoying a more active lifestyle.

If you’re looking for an outdoor activity that costs very little to get started, is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, and has the added benefit of helping you explore your local area - you might consider walking.

The health benefits of regular walking as part of an active lifestyle are often underestimated.

It can help you:

  • improve your cardiovascular health.
  • reduce your blood pressure.
  • achieve your weight loss goals.
  • improve your overall mood and mental wellness.

But at the same time as you shouldn’t underestimate the healthy living benefits of walking, you also shouldn't overlook the potential injury risks.

If you try to do too much too soon or don't warm up or cool down correctly, you can run the risk of muscle stiffness, soreness, or even sprains.

If you’re stuck on where to start with your warm-up and cool-down stretches, this post will look at different types of stretching exercises for walks that will help you walk more comfortably and reduce the risk of injury.

As always, please remember it’s recommended to seek advice from your GP before starting any new fitness routine.

Warm-up stretching exercises for walks

Before we jump in and start talking about the best warm-up stretches for springtime strolls, you might be asking yourself why warming up is so important.

Warming up helps your body prepare for exercise by increasing the blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles, and also improving their elasticity.

By making sure you include 5 minutes in your routine to properly warm up before your walks, you’re likely to feel more comfortable during your walking exercise and also be less likely to suffer from strains and injuries.

The most effective types of warm-up stretching exercises for walks are ones that get your body moving gently, and take your muscles and joints through a full range of motion. These types of exercises are commonly referred to as ‘dynamic stretches’.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite dynamic walking exercises for you to consider trying out.

Open the gate

Your hips help you stay stable and upright as you walk. This dynamic walking exercise is great for warming up your hips and other areas of your lower body ahead of your walk.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.- Lift one knee up towards your chest, so your upper leg runs parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly move your lifted leg out to the side, keeping your body facing forwards.
  • Hold this for a few seconds, then bring your lifted leg back to the middle and place it back down on the floor.
  • Repeat the exercise on your other leg.

Leg kicks

Your hamstrings are incredibly important for helping maintain an active lifestyle, and this group of muscles helps you to bend your knee and extend your hip while walking.

If you’re looking for a way to warm up your hamstrings before your walk, this is a great warm-up exercise.

  • Stand up straight and raise both arms in front of your chest.
  • Kick your right leg up high as possible, as if you’re trying to touch your hands with your toes.
  • Repeat this 5 times on your right leg
  • Then switch to your left leg.

Ankle rolls

Ankle rolls can help improve your ankle mobility ahead of your walks.

  • Start by sitting up straight on a chair. - Position your feet so they are slightly raised off the ground.
  • Rotate one of your ankles slowly in a clockwise direction for 5 rotations.
  • Switch directions and circle your ankle anti-clockwise for 5 rotations.
  • Repeat on your other foot.

Leg pendulum

Your glutes, quadriceps, and calf muscles all have important roles while you’re on your springtime strolls.

Leg pendulum exercises engage all of these muscles at the same time, making it a really efficient stretching exercise for walks.

  • Stand up straight and balance on your left leg. (It’s fine to place a hand on the wall or other sturdy object if you need support).
  • Swing your right leg forwards and backward like a pendulum 5-10 times without moving your upper body.
  • Once you’ve finished your repetitions on your right leg, switch the position of your legs and complete the exercise on your left leg.

Arm swings

It’s important not to forget to warm up your arms before you go out walking.

When you swing your arms it can act as a counterbalance to the movement of your legs as you walk, and help you maintain your balance and centre of gravity.

Arm swings are perfect warm-up stretching exercises for walks, and are great for loosening up your arms and shoulders.

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise your arms so that they are held out straight in front of you, with your palms facing the ground.
  • Keeping your palms facing down and your body facing forwards, swing both arms to the right (so that your left arm comes across your chest).
  • Then swing both arms back to centre.
  • Repeat this to your right 5 times, before switching to the left.

Cooldown stretching exercises for walks

When you get back home after the end of your walk, your muscles will have been working harder than usual, your heart rate will have increased, and you’ll be breathing more rapidly.

Having a short cooldown routine at the end of your walk can help your body return back to a relaxed, resting state. A cooldown after your walk can also be a good opportunity to mentally reflect on your exercise and how your body feels.

For cooldown stretches after walking, we’d recommend that you consider a selection of static stretches.

A static stretch is different from a dynamic stretch. Rather than moving your muscles and joints through a full range of motion, you hold your muscles in a fixed position for a period of time. The benefit of doing this is that it ‘elongates’ your muscles, which helps them to relax. This in turn can reduce post-exercise stiffness and can also reduce the risk of muscle strain injuries.

Static cooldown stretching exercises for walks should target all the main muscles used while you’ve been walking:

Quadriceps stretch

  • Stand up straight with your feet slightly apart.
  • Slowly bring your right heel up towards your buttocks.
  • Use your right hand to hold your foot in place.
  • Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds.
  • Release and switch legs.

Calf stretch

  • Stand facing a wall, and place both hands on the wall at shoulder height.
  • Take a step back with the leg you want to stretch, keeping your foot flat on the ground.
  • Bend the knee of your front leg so that your knee and your ankle are aligned.
  • Slowly lean your body forward against the wall until you start to feel a slight stretch in your calf.
  • Hold this for between 15 and 20 seconds. - Release and switch legs.

Knee to chest

This is a great exercise for engaging your hip flexors and glutes.

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift one knee up towards your chest using both hands.
  • Hold it in place for around 10 seconds before slowly lowering it back down.
  • Repeat this three times on each leg.

Posterior shoulder stretch

It’s also important to cool down the muscles in your arms after you’ve been walking.

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your right arm straight and parallel with the floor, move it across your upper chest.
  • Use your left hand to push your right arm towards your body.
  • You should feel a slight stretch in your upper arm and shoulders.
  • Hold this for around 30 seconds before switching arms.

Don’t let injuries get in the way of your springtime strolls

Walking is often underestimated as a form of exercise. Fitness walking has a lot of benefits for your body, and it’s also an accessible and affordable way for people of all ages and fitness levels to enjoy an active lifestyle.

Now that spring is finally here, getting out of the house and enjoying some fresh air as you take a brisk walk around your local area is a great way to work towards healthy living.

But it's important to make the time to properly include warm-up and cool-down stretches into your walking routine. Stretching exercises for walks can help improve your walking experience and reduce the risk of potential injuries.

We regularly work with patients who have injured themselves by trying to do too much, too soon with a fitness activity they’ve recently started.

So even though walking seems ‘simple’ - don’t be tempted to overdo it at first. Listen to your body and build up the distance and intensity of your walking workouts gradually when you start.

If you are experiencing any long-term or recurring pain while you're walking or completing your warm-up or cool-down stretches, consult a medical professional as soon as you can. Getting treatment and advice early can often prevent a condition from evolving into something more serious.

At CK Physiotherapy, we have a team of licenced, chartered physiotherapists operating in the Ealing area that are able to support you with any recurring pain or injury that might occur from physical activity.

Just give us a call on 020 8566 4113 and one of our team will be happy to arrange an initial consultation, before we create an individualised treatment plan.

Further Reading

11 stretches to do before walking. Retrieved from: https://www.vionicshoes.com/blog/

Stretches for walkers Retrieved from: https://www.today.com/health/diet-fitness/

6 important stretching exercises for walkers. Retrieved from: https://blog.mypacer.com/

Prevent walking injury. Retrieved from: https://share.upmc.com/2014/07/

How to walk. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/

How to walk for beginners. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfit.com/

Injury prevention 101 for walkers 7 tips to stay injury free and walk more. Retrieved from: https://blog.mypacer.com/

Dynamic stretching. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/

Pre post workout stretches. Retrieved from: https://www.atipt.com/blog/

Dynamic stretching. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/

Real reasons to include cool down post workout. Retrieved from: https://marquemedical.com/

Exercise 101 dont skip the warm up or cool down. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/

Pubmed. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Impact of static stretching on performance. Retrieved from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/

Walking muscles used. Retrieved from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/

Latest Blogs

6 min

Best physiotherapy treatments for patients ...
Due to the COVID pandemic, we have all been restricted in more ways than one. Not being able to ...

29 March, 2024

10 min

How to prevent the most common tennis ...
The nights are finally lighter, the weather’s getting warmer, and it’s approaching that time ofthe ...

30 June, 2023

8 min

Aquatherapy: swimming for physiotherapy
Swimming is widely recognised as one of the most effective forms of exercise, providing a full body ...

26 June, 2023

appointment  image
Ready for a More Active, Pain-free Life?

Get Started with
CK Physio Today