Stretching Routine for Walking

Male runner stretching leg in urban environment.

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Stretching can improve your flexibility and can make walking more comfortable. This stretching routine targets the muscle groups you will use for good walking posture and mobility. 

Many walkers like to do a stretching routine at the start of their workout. Some also stretch again at the end or do some stretches in the middle of long walks. Incorporate this stretching routine into your walking workout with whatever timing feels best to you.

Stretching Guidelines

Warm up for 5 minutes at an easy walking pace before stretching. Incorporate mobility exercises (also called dynamic stretching) designed to take a muscle and joint through its range of motion. Perform these stretches slowly. Only stretch as far as is comfortable. Stop if anything hurts. If you have any medical problem that makes it difficult to perform one of these stretches, you may want to ask your doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer for an alternate flexibility exercise.

Never stretch cold muscles. Doing so can put you at risk of an injury, such as a strain or tear.

Stretches and Mobility Exercises

Find an upright pole, fence, or wall that you can use for support when leaning into some of these stretches and mobility exercises. You will start at the top of your body and work your way down.

Head Rolls

  • Make half circles with your head.
  • Start with your ear near your shoulder on one side.
  • Rotate your head around to the front, ending with your ear near the shoulder on the other side.
  • Roll your head back to the other side.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Arm Circles

  • Hold your arms out to your sides.
  • With one arm at a time, make backward arm circles with your palm facing forward, thumb pointed up. If it is comfortable for you, you can choose to circle both arms at the same time.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times with each arm.
  • Then make forward arm circles with the palm facing backward, thumb pointed down, repeating 10 to 15 times with each arm.

Standing Lunge Hip Stretch

  1. Stand straight and tall.
  2. Place your hands on your hips.
  3. Take a step forward with your right foot so you are standing in a split stance
  4. Lower your right knee so it is at a 90-degree angle. Your left leg is extended straight back behind you.
  5. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  6. Release and repeat on the other side.

Quadriceps Stretch

  • Stand tall, holding onto a wall for support.
  • Bend your right knee bringing your foot behind you and grasp your foot with your right hand, holding your heel up toward your rear end.
  • Stand up straight with your right knee pointing down toward the floor. Use your hand to keep the heel in place, don't pull with it.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch to stretch the other leg.

Calf Stretch

  • Stand at arms-length from a wall or post.
  • Lean into the wall, bracing yourself with your arms.
  • Place one leg forward with the knee bent. This leg will have no weight put on it.
  • Keep the ​other leg back with the knee straight and heel down.
  • Keeping your back straight, move your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf.
  • Hold 30 seconds. Relax.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Soleus Calf Stretch

  • From the calf stretch position, bend the back knee so that the angle is changed to stretch the Achilles' tendon.
  • Keep your heel down.
  • Hold 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Then switch legs and repeat on the other leg.

Leg Extensions

  • Stand tall and hold onto a pole or wall with your right hand.
  • Bending your left knee, bring your left leg forward, then extend and swing that leg back and behind you.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times, then switch legs.
  • Be cautious of hyperextending your lower back.

Cross Over Leg Swings

  • Holding onto a pole or fence rail with both hands, face forward.
  • Swing one leg side-to-side in front of your body, gradually swinging higher.
  • Swing about 10 to 15 times with each leg.

After completing these stretching and mobility exercises, you are ready for the main portion of your walk at your desired speed and/or to cool down after your walk.

A Word From Verywell

Flexibility exercises can help you maintain the full range of motion of your muscle groups and joints. This is especially important as you age. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week (and optimally daily) to improve and maintain your range of motion. Stretching combined with your walking routine can ensure that you get both stretching and moderate-intensity exercise.

1 Source
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  1. The American College of Sports Medicine. Stretching guidelines. 2016.

Additional Reading

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.