Walk on an incline. This can be a hill, or on a treadmill. But walk.
Walking has immense health benefits, and walking on an incline even more so.
This simplicity solution and filter can be applied to any question. It is easy to fall into a rabbit hole of hypothesizing and possible solutions, and while exploration is necessary, it can become its own obstacle. One can spend so much time trying to determine the most optimal solution that no action is ever taken.
As such, sometimes a reductionist approach is very useful.
Writing on posture raised many questions by people:
-What if I’m not strong enough to do pullups?
-Do I need to stretch the muscles that are tight first?
-What if I have anterior pelvic tilt?
And much more. While these are all valid questions, they mandate in-depth explanations, more than would reasonably fit in a single article. And they made me realize there was one question that I failed to ask myself in writing the article on posture,
“What is the most simple and effective way to improve posture?”.
“Secrets” are in plain sight
Incline Walking is remedial. It is simple. It is something that everyone takes for granted being able to do. Perhaps that is why no one considers it as being a component of health. Which is unfortunate, as walking of and in itself is the one activity that everyone can do, and it improves nearly everything in the body
Walking for posture is not a complicated activity. By walking on an incline, you self-correct as number of issues;
-It physically cues you to keep your gaze up, and not down
-It becomes more tiring the more you slouch and collapse the shoulders. To walk “tall” on an incline, you must keep your chest elevated
-It can be practiced daily. Inclined walking is not so draining that you cannot do it 7 days a week.
-You can conscientiously practice deep, meditative breathing. Incline walking can be as intense as running if the incline is high enough and you are walking around 4mph
-It can be done almost anywhere, at any time of day. Unless you live in a completely flat area, and don’t have access to a treadmill at all, incline walking is doable in most urban, suburban, and rural environments.
-If you go to the gym regularly, incline walking can be a simple warmup before lifting to raise core body temperature and get you sweating
While I cannot promise that ONLY incline walking is enough to correct posture, it is a powerful enough stimulus that practically anyone can see benefits from it. I would recommend you add in some stretching and lifting on top of this if you want it to stick.
How to Incline Walk
Over the years I’ve learned that there is no solution nor problem too simple that people cannot find a way to screw up. One of the biggest issues as a personal trainer has been clients wearing inappropriate footwear.
When you lift, you DO NOT want a cushioned, highly insulated running shoe. These do not allow you to exert force into the ground fully, and they can be unstable for movements like lunges, deadlifts, squats, and even bench press.
That might not seem like a problem, but it does affect posture when someone’s feet and ankles are not stable. For lifting, you want flat, hard bottomed shoes that allow you to exert force. For walking, and running, you likely need something with some cushioning. For lifting shoes, I wear Inov8s. These are zero drop minimalist shoes. A cheaper option would be conventional Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
For running and walking this is different. Ive suggested people get flatter shoes, and then they complain that their lifting shoes made their feet hurt when they ran. Context matters. For walking and running, you will want something more cushioned and protective, especially if you are walking on a hard surface like concrete or asphalt.
For walking and running, I use Nike Frees. That is not a shameless plug, the pair I got were on sale at an outlet store. I tried them on on a whim, and found they were very comfortable. I’ve used Saucony’s, New Balance, and Adidas running shoes as well. For the time being, the Nike Frees work. Try on shoes and walk around in them. Again, Ive had clients show up to the gym never having used the shoes they bought. Be sensible. I’ve sent back many pairs of shoes to amazon because I didn’t like the fit.
All this said, don’t overthink this. The shoes you wear should not cause your feet to hurt, give you blisters, or cause knee or hip issues. Find a pair that feels comfortable to walk in for long distances.
With appropriate footwear comes the act of walking itself. If you are new to incline walking, it can be surprisingly tiring. I suggest a 4% grade, at whatever pace you can manage for 30 minutes. If your cardio and leg strength is decent, try fasting walking, or even running, at 4-7%. Beyond an 8% grade it can becomes difficult to sustain a fast pace, but if you can run uphill, go for it, the cardiovascular benefits are immense.
A progression would be as follows.
Week 1-1 mile a day, 3mph @4% incline
Week 2-1 mile a day, 3.2mph @4% incline
Week 3-1 mile a day, 3.4mph @4% incline
Week 3-1 mile a day, 3.6mph @4% incline
Week 3-1 mile a day, 3.8mph @4% incline
Week 3-1.25 mile a day, 4.0mph @4% incline
Week 3-1.5 miles a day, 4.0mph @4% incline
The above requires no more than 20-30 minutes, and obviously, you could progress beyond this. I often enjoy walking on a higher incline around 5-6%, and around 3 mph. I listen to podcasts while I do this.
You could combine the miles in 3 moderate length workouts, or 2 longer workouts. Often times when designing training programs, I’ll have people lift 4 days a week, and go for long walks on their off days. This facilitates recovery and is an easy way to “cardio” without actually do anything particularly strenuous.
If it is your intention to begin fixing your posture as swiftly as possible, simply go with the everyday routine. A mile a day over a few weeks, you will begin to see the results.
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