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Healthy Aging Tips from Sit and Be Fit's Mary Ann Wilson RN

A Total Body Exercise

By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

Most people think of walking as a workout for the legs only. BUT, you can transform this activity into a total body exercise, just by walking and arm pumping at the same time! Arm pumping almost doubles the aerobic benefit of walking and tones the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and back at the same time. It also takes the stress off the shoulder joint by making the muscles of the upper back share the strain of the movement.

There’s a difference between walking and arm pumping and walking while just swinging the arms. Your arms naturally swing forward and back, as you walk, but this action demands very little muscle strength. But arm pumping, which briskly moves the arms forward and back as you walk, takes much more muscle strength and control in your arms, chest and back, and actually propels you forward.


Practice the Arm Pumping Position

  • The basic arm-pump position is with the elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, with the fist loosely clenched.
  • Move the arms forward and back – lightly brushing the sides of your body. The elbow should travel in a wide arc, coming to chest height in the front and almost shoulder height in the back. (But it’s important to stay within your comfort range.)
  • Practice the arm-pump standing in front of a mirror, until you understand and feel the basic movement.
  • Warm-up the arms and shoulders


Arm Pumping Warm Up Exercises

Now, let’s do some warm-ups for the arms and shoulders to get the joints ready for action and increase circulation.

  • Gently swing arms forward and back as you do when you walk. Exaggerate the movement.
  • Swing one arm at a time.
  • Swing the right arm forward as high as is comfortable. Rotate the arm to turn the palm up to ceiling. Then swing right arm down and back. Rotate arm the arm inward to turn palm up to ceiling. Repeat exercise with left arm.
  • Elbow lift: Place right hand on right shoulder. Completely relax the right arm in this position. Use the “lift” hand to do all the work. Place left hand under right elbow and lift right elbow toward ceiling as high as possible. Stay within your comfort range. Then gently let right arm down. Repeat exercise with opposite arm.
  • Elbow walk. Place right hand on right shoulder and left hand on left shoulder. Walk elbows up (alternating right and left) to the count of 8, as high as is comfortable (shoulder level or higher). Then stretch elbows up…back…and down.
  • Arm circle forward and back. Reach fully extended right arm forward – then circle it up…back and down. Then reverse direction of circle – starting back…up…and forward. Repeat exercise with left arm.
  • Chinese windmill: Starting position – arms down at sides…palms facing forward…fingers stretched wide apart. Raise both arms at the same time from sides to above head (cross wrists above head), keeping palms facing forward. Return to starting position.

Incorporate walking and arm pumping into your daily routine and you will be stepping up and stepping out for a total body workout!

Related Blogs:

Stretching and Walking

Mary Ann’s Quick Energizer Workout

Get Up and Go Energy Boost

Sit to Stand Training to Help Achieve Lift Off


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