By Hamish Johnston
I am one of the lucky few in the western world who can walk to work. It’s a five-mile (8 km) round trip and I have been doing it most days for over a decade.
Sadly, I’m getting to that age where I can feel the effects of all that walking — an occasional sharp pain in my left foot that has thus far defied a medical explanation.
So I was very interested to read this piece on the Guardian website about the role of arm swinging in walking.
According to researchers in the Netherlands, swinging arms exert a succession of alternating torques on the body, which counteract the torques created by the swinging of the legs.
In a normal gait you swing your right arm forward as your left leg swings backwards and vice versa. However, if you walk with your hands behind your back, you use 12% more energy — and if you swing your right arm and right leg in the same direction etc, you use an astonishing 26% more energy.
I had a quick try at all these gaits and I have convinced myself that I can feel the effect of the unbalanced torques.
If you are a bit more self-conscious, you can watch a video of all three gaits on the Guardian website.
It’s amazing how “natural” the walker looks when he uses the normal swing — whereas when arms and legs move in the same direction it looks like something out of a Monty Python sketch.