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Walk this way

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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.

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2 comments

  1. Bee

    Oh yeah, and if you carry a laptop bag over your shoulder it ruins your hip joint by creating an additional torque. Not recommendable.

  2. Luís Perles

    Yep, carrying a laptop on a shoulder is not recommended. Use a backpack designed for that. But for long walks even such backpack can bring you backache in the future. Be careful.

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