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How to warm up before walking

Yes, doing a warm-up before walking actually does have some benefits. This article explains when you need a pre-walking warm-up and demonstrates four easy walking warm-ups that cover all the relevant muscles and joints. Remember, if you need more help with an injury, you're welcome to consult one of our physios online via video call.


Warm-up exercises routine for before walking.

In this article:


I demonstrate the four pre-walking warm-ups in this video:



Why bother warming up for walking?

 

If you’re just going for leisurely stroll, don’t bother.

 

However, these warm-ups are beneficial if you’re going to be walking at a brisk pace or if you’re going to do some power walking.

  • They get your joints moving freely.

  • They warm up the muscles you use for walking.

  • They get your tendons and ligaments ready for some action.

  • You’ll have quicker reactions if something unforeseen happens, because your nerves will be firing better.

 

You want to include movements in your pre-walk warm-up that use the same muscles and joints that you're going to use when you're walking. These are your:

  • Hips

  • Knees

  • Ankles

  • Glutes

  • Hip flexors

  • Front thigh muscles (quads)

  • Hamstrings

  • Calf muscles



Warm up before walking with these exercises

 

1. Roll-downs


The standing curl-down exercise is a great all-in-one dynamic warm-up stretch.

 

👉 This warms up your hamstrings, glutes, hip joints, and, as a bonus, your back.

 

Instructions

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your knees slightly bent.

  2. Put your chin on your chest and tighten up your tummy muscles.

  3. Roll your upper body down until you hang from your hips.

  4. Take a deep breath in and relax further into the stretch as you breathe out.

  5. Then, return to upright, reversing the movement by straightening your lower back, then your middle and upper back, and finally your neck.

  6. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

 

💡 Top tip

  • I’m quite flexible. If you can’t go down as far as I do in the video, just go to where you can without discomfort.

 

2. Squats


Limit the height of your squat to whatever is comfortable for you — a chair can be useful to stop you going too low.
Limit the height of your squat to whatever is comfortable for you — a chair can be useful to stop you going too low.

 

👉 This will warm up your glutes, quads, ankles, knees, and hips.

 

Instructions

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart.

  2. Squat down slowly – don’t let gravity do the work for you and plonk down.

  3. Stick your bum far out to the back, as if you intend to sit on a chair.

  4. Ensure that your knees stay in line with your feet – they shouldn’t swivel in or out.

  5. Come back up.

  6. Repeat 10 times.

 

💡 Top tips

  • Hold on to something if you feel that you’re going to lose your balance, or you can even do it from a chair, standing up and sitting down slowly.

  • You don’t have to squat very deep when warming up before a walk, because you don’t move through a large range of motion when you walk.

  • This warm-up exercise strengthens your legs as well, so it’s two birds with one stone.



3. Calf stretches


Calf stretches warm up your calf muscles and ankle joints.

 

👉 In addition to warming up your calf muscles, this loosens up your hip and ankle joints and warms up your hip flexors and quads.

 

Instructions

  1. Place one foot forward. Place the other one back, so that you can still put it flat on the floor but feel a stretch in the calf muscle.

  2. Gently rock forwards and backwards.

  3. Switch legs and repeat.

  4. Do a total of 10 on each side.

 

💡 Top tips

  • Hold on to something for balance if necessary.

  • Again, don’t stretch your calf muscle as far as you can – just to where you feel a gentle stretch.

  • The same goes for the front knee; just bend it as far as is comfortable.

 

4. Heel raises


Calf raises warm up your calf muscles.

 

👉 These warm up your calves and ankle joints.

 

Instructions

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart.

  2. Slowly go up on your toes.

  3. Hold for a second, and slowly lower yourself back down; again, don’t plonk down.

  4. Do 10 repetitions, rest a bit (maybe do some squats), and then do 10 more.

 

💡 Top tips

  • Hold on to something for balance if necessary.

  • In the video, I do these in bare feet so you can properly see what I’m doing, but rather do these in your walking shoes. You can easily injure the front of your foot with this warm-up if you do it barefoot, especially on a hard surface.



How many repetitions to do

 

This will depend on how fit and strong you are. I wouldn’t do more than two sets of 10 of any of these warm-ups, because you just don't need that many for walking.

 

If you're not that fit and you're new to these exercises, I would start off with two sets of 5, just to get used to them first.

 

⚠️ Don't start out too fast

 

So, you've now done these walking warm-ups. Please don’t go into speed-walking mode immediately; you may still pull a muscle. I would do about 2 to 5 minutes of just slow walking, getting everything progressively warmer, and then switch to faster walking.


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Maryke Louw

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 20 years' experience and a Master’s Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.




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