Blindness And Walking Correctly
Today, everybody’s talking about walking for exercise. It is usually the most natural and safe exercise we do. For many of us who are blind, walking is our main mode of transportation, so we do lots of it.
Even though walking is a natural movement, there is a proper technique. Unfortunately, due to injuries or just plain bad habits, good walking form may get forgotten along the way. Blindness can also create specific challenges for maintaining correct walking technique.
Often, a person who is blind walks either with a guide dog, cane, or sighted guide. This fact alone requires that we be more vigilant when it comes to our technique. It is easy for our bodies to become asymmetrical and off balance due to always holding onto a dog, a cane, or someone’s arm.
First, let’s talk about the proper technique, then we can address how we as blind people might keep ourselves on track.
Proper walking begins with proper posture. I discuss correct posture in my post: 7 Tips for Better Posture in just one Minute a Day, so I am not going into great detail here. The key is to hold your head up, shoulders back and relaxed, stomach pulled in with a natural arch in your low back. Your pelvis stays level. while walking, your hip bones, knees, and toes stay pointed straight ahead. Your body stays upright, not leaning forward. People who are blind have a tendency to walk with their heads down and forward. This puts the whole body into a posture which is more likely to cause tripping and falling. Be sure to combat this by standing tall and proud.
Regarding walking stride, most of us think that we should begin by stepping forward with the front foot, which is not ideal. The power should come from pushing off the back toes, and not pulling forward with the front leg. Imagine yourself pushing the ground behind you and your front leg goes along for the ride. The front foot lands squarely on the heel and then rolls onto the ball of the foot; pinky side landing first and big toe hitting last. The front foot then begins to push the ground behind as the other foot swings through.
We can’t forget about the arms since they are an important part of safe and proper walking technique.
With your shoulders relaxed and chest open and proud, let your arms hang naturally at your sides. Bend the elbows at a 90 degree angle. Do not make tight fists with your hands. Keep them loose. Most likely your arms will swing naturally but just for fun, be aware of them to make sure they are moving freely. When the left leg goes forward, the right arm swings forward. This keeps you balanced and creates more power to move you forward.
I know what you are probably saying now. “I am blind and I walk with a dog or cane. I can’t walk this way.” You are exactly right, so now we need to get creative.
Actually, the only part of this way of walking that is hard for us is swinging the arms. Arms don’t swing naturally while holding on to a harness handle, cane, or sighted guide, but everything else we can do. The trick is to do everything else correctly. It is essential that we keep our shoulders as relaxed as possible. We need to keep the shoulders level. There is a tendency to contract the muscles in the arm with the dog or cane. A guide dog should be the right pace for you so you do not stress one side over the other. The free arm can swing naturally. This holds true for a cane user as well.
What can we do about the inevitability of our muscles tightening in an asymmetrical way?
When the harness goes on its hook and the cane goes in its corner, it is time to stretch. It only takes a minute or two to do a few shoulder rolls and take your shoulder joints through a complete range of motion. Shake out your body like your dog does when the harness comes off. Stretch out your back and touch your toes if you can. Just take a few minutes to make sure all your joints are properly stretched and aligned. The most important thing is to be aware of how your body feels so you can make adjustments. Taking a little time every day will prevent any number of painful conditions.
It will be helpful to do other types of exercises also. Strength training, Pilates, and yoga will go a long way toward keeping your body well balanced so that you can keep on walking
We have all kinds of exercise choices for you right here. You don’t even need to walk to the gym.
Good health to you,