Why should you swing your hips when you walk, if you are a woman? Men, should you swing your hips too, for that matter?
'Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.' ~ Edward Stanley
The other day I decided to take a long walk in the nearby park. The sun was shining and the air was slightly cool. As I began to warm up, my body felt good. I always anticipate long walks, instead of the hurry-up-and-get-some-aerobic-exercise-done walks.
Normally I have a pre-set list of parameters for my aerobic exercise walking: how far I need to go, how much time I have and how fast I need to make my heart rate. My walks are also usually accelerated by the length of my husband’s 6-foot stride.
But on this day, I was alone. As I began walking, I just fell into my own rhythm. I had no time constraints. I walked to the rhythm of my inner spirit, and my walk became meditative.
After a while, I noticed that instead of pushing forward from my hips and legs in my usual fashion, I had a hip swing going. I had never really noticed that before. Hum, interesting.
La Luz Trail, Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Your hips house the powerful muscles of walking and include the gluteus muscles, the hip flexors and the piriformis.
My own hips, from the body-mind perspective, are the powerhouses that drive me forward. This energy in me is very strong. Therefore, it seems like I always have sore hip muscles. I have a hard time releasing the need for strong, forward movement in my life.
If you wish to learn even more about the body-mind connection as it relates to the hip, see my foam rolling articles on the hip: Foam Roller Exercises to Open the Hip, and Foam Roller Exercises and Stretches for Your Piriformis and Gluteus Muscles.
So, back to why you should swing your hips during walking. I noticed that because I was in no hurry that day regarding getting the aerobic exercise done, that I relaxed into the movement of walking. When I did this, a natural hip swing developed as I developed my own stride.
The movement of my hips which felt more like a side-to-side movement, was more comfortable that the forward-pushing movements that I have always done. I still had a little bounce in my step, as the hip swing movement propelled me forward.
I thought wow: A new discovery! You really should swing your hips when you walk! I discovered that I enjoyed my aerobic exercise more and that I could walk just as far and perhaps just as fast as when I used that same willful forward-marching stride. I also noticed that I didn’t feel any twinges in my knees. I didn’t notice my knees at all. In fact, I walked for over an hour that day, and enjoyed every minute of it! I didn’t feel the usual aches and groans of the forced march.
The hip swing was not an overtly sexual hip swing, but one of a natural pattern, that just happened when I swung my leg forward and as I propelled my hip forward in the process of walking.
In fact, I remember when I was in adolescence, I was embarrassed and avoided swinging my hips. I actually trained myself to avoid the hip side-to-side movement. Maybe my current gait pattern was a left over, from this forced and trained way of walking?
Or was the 'hip swing' really a hip swing, or was it a normal rotation of the pelvic girdle that I had avoided? Should your hip swing when you walk?
I tried to find information on this on the web, and much to my surprise, outside of race walking, the topic of normal hip rotation in walking is not well covered. I could find nothing to tell me if you should swing your hips or not when you walk.
The best information I found was that the 'swing phase' of walking was the swinging forward of the leg, not the hip. The hip should rotate forward with the leg as it is swung forward before the heel strikes.
So all the race walkers that appear to have an exaggerated hip swing, are merely rotating their hips forward as they prepare for the next step. The shift of the body weight through the center of gravity from the hip merely gives the illusion of the hip swinging side-to-side.
OK, do I have you confused yet? I know I am. So, instead, lets think of the phrase 'swing your hips' as a metaphor for life, for health and for a natural and relaxed state of the hips when you walk. It is the metaphor for how to reconnect your body-mind when you walk.
All this emphasis on aerobic exercise, in my humble opinion is over-rated. If you don’t have fun when you move, you won’t do it for long, will you? And if you are willful and do the ‘forced march,’ I believe eventually that you will injure yourself, because your body-mind-soul isn’t into it. You are just doing the aerobic exercise because you think you have to.
See my article on aerobic exercise, to read more on my philosophy about it. My philosophy is not about avoiding movement ~ quite the contrary. If you cruise around my website you will see that I believe that intuitive movement is imperative for body-mind-soul health, and that the body itself is an instrument for health. Your body is a window to your soul.
So this is what I will do. I will keep a natural cadence, a less forced one and find my own rhythm when I walk, both for enjoyment and for aerobic exercise. When you choose to ‘swing your hips’ do it for the love and the enjoyment of walking! Don’t make it a forced march that you must do for health.
Go ahead, step out and heal your body-mind-soul through the power of your own hip swing. Swing your hips with the intuitive movement of your choice. Have fun when you do it. When you find that aerobic exercise is too boring, too demanding, and too ordinary, I invite you to "Swing Your Hips" instead!