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What is gait?

Gait is your manner of walking

What is important about gait?

Your gait has a significant effect upon your health and wellbeing. A healthy, comfortable natural way of walking allows the joints of the body to move freely and easily. This reflects balance and poise.
By contrast, poor gait reflects notable mobility problems and tension throughout the body.


Culture influences gait. Consider how people walk now and how they used to walk. Watch movies, television and old news footage. Look at different cultures.
There is no fixed standard for how to walk. However, when you factor in fashion, footwear, values, expectations - it is clear that there are many external influences that mould how people walk.


If you read some anthropology books you will discover that your gait is often influenced by 'emulation'... From an early age you copy the gait of parents/guardians, peer group and pop culture influences.
For example, cowboy films affected how people walked in the 20th Century. Look at archive footage of gait in the early part of the 20th Century... Men looked stiff and upright.
This changed when movies became popular.

We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person) in how we walk. Or to put it more accurately, living in this world means choosing, choosing to walk, and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself. Nothing can disguise it. The walk of an ordinary man and of an enlightened man are as different as that of a snake and a giraffe.

(R.H. Blyth)

How should we walk?

Although everyone's skeletal structure is subtly different, we all operate within a limited range of functional variables. In other words, barring illness or a physical impediment, we should all walk well.
The skeleton works best when upright, with balanced, toned muscles, relaxed, mobile joints and good balance.

How do people walk?

Nowadays? Badly. The main culprits behind bad gait are:

  1. Obesity

  2. Sitting too much

  3. Lack of mindfulness

  4. Not walking enough

  5. Striding

  6. Rushing/hurrying

  7. Poor physical awareness

  8. Stooping

  9. Postural tension

  10. Poor choice of footwear

  11. Mobile phones

  12. Weak, under-developed leg muscles

  13. Locked knees

If you want a showcase of modern gait, go to the supermarket. It is like a zombie holocaust. Try to find anyone who walks well. Good poise? Grace? Natural, easy gait? You'll struggle to find anyone.

90 minutes a day

Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
The three doctors who wrote The Okinawa Program maintain that tai chi - with its ancient origins and incredible health benefits - is the ideal form of exercise for modern people.
If this sounds like a lot of exercise, why not chop it up into smaller increments spaced throughout the day?

Buy a ped counter

Walk as often you can. Buy a pedometer and do 10,000 steps a day. Don't get caught up on the significance of 10,000 steps. It is just a number. Rather than procrastinate, walk. Your body will thank you.

Fat or obese?

The problem with body fat is that it prevents the joints from working properly. Plus, the fatter you are, the worse the problem will be.
You can see many examples of people with extremely fat legs where the legs cannot physically move in a natural manner. The individual has 'peg legs' - lurching with each step.
Quite often, modern people have skinny legs, no buttock muscles to speak of and huge, hulking upper bodies. They are top heavy. It is easy to see how this will affect gait.

Cultivate awareness

Tai chi teaches people to become conscious of how they use their body. The mind must be brought back to the here and now. To the immediate. Students learn to feel what is happening as it is happening.
This is not a monumental task to accomplish. It simply requires patience, persistence and a commitment to improve.

Quality of life

Discovering how to walk skilfully is transformative. It will quite literally affect all facets of your life. Each day. All day long. You will use less effort, feel less tired, be balanced and nimble.
You will also be less prone to experience mobility, coordination and medical problems caused by a poor walking technique.

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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 16 June 2023