The Best Stretching Exercises for Walkers

by Sarah Rowell

Sarah Rowell is a successful long distance runner and high performance sport advisor. With exercises and pictures courtesy of Coach House Physiotherapy Clinic, Leeds, she reveals the best stretches for helping you to stay in top walking shape.

With spring upon us it is time to think about starting to walk; no, not in the context of when Prince George will move from crawl to walk, but how best to prepare ourselves before we head out of the door, particularly when on a holiday and you are walking for consecutive days.

Easing through aches and pains, and what needs stretching before and after a walk are very individual and it is important to note that there is no one set of exercises to fit everyone.  Experienced walkers will know which bits need stretching or loosening and hopefully with time, also the best way for them personally to do so.

However, there are some common areas that walkers find useful to keep an eye on. The following stretching and mobility routines have been developed by the team of experts at the Coach House Physiotherapy Clinic who help me with walking and running on a regular basis.

Look after your shoulders and back

After all, they have to do all the carrying, and in doing so there is a tendency to hunch your shoulders forward and stiffen your back. These exercises are designed to counteract that:

 Pec stretch

Pec Stretch A Pec Stretch B

  • Stand facing the wall, arm out to the side with the elbow at 90 degrees and at shoulder height.
  • Turn chest and rib cage away from the wall / arm, keeping the front of the shoulder close to the wall. Feel the stretch in the front of the shoulder
  • Repeat, first with the elbow at shoulder height and then with the elbow just above shoulder height.
  • Hold both stretches for 30 seconds and repeat twice.

Counter Rotate the Trunk

The ability to counter rotate your upper and lower back ( ie upper back rotate left, lower back rotate right) is a vital component of normal movement that is often lost in those doing endurance based activities such as walking. This has many adverse effects on performance, technique, breathing and muscle function. The upper back is frequently stiff and the following exercise will help to prevent this.

Stretches for the shoulders and back

  • Sit with your feet on the floor, relaxed posture and hands on your lap.
  • Keep your head still and rotate through the lower rib cage.
  • Your shoulders will move as your ribs move - they shouldn’t be pulling  you into rotation.
  • Repeat approximately 20 times, little and often or for a warm up.

 Stretch the Legs

           Calf Stretches - Gastrocnemius

the best stretches for walkers

  • Stand facing the wall with your hands on the wall and feet shoulder width apart.
  • Place your feet pigeon toed, arches up and knees straight.
  • Lean into the wall, keeping your knees straight and arches up.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.

 Calf Stretches - Soleus

Calf stretches - Soleus

  • Stand facing the wall with one foot in front of the other, toes pointing forward.
  • Dip down, bending both knees. You should be able to get four fingers width in front of the knee.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.


  • Standing straight, place your hands in the small of your back, just above the hips.
  • Lean backwards, extending from the hips.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.

All exercises and pictures are courtesy of Coach House Physiotherapy Clinic, Leeds (, 0113 2750606)

Originally published 02/05/14

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