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Build sensory awareness to improve gait.



By Sit and Be Fit TV Host

Mary Ann Wilson, RN

Taking just one step involves coordination of many different body parts. We rarely think about all the connections that have to be in place to make moving forward possible. However, if you have ever had an injury, a stroke, or any condition that affects your walking power, you begin to appreciate all the details that go into taking just one step.

The foot, alone, is a complex and remarkable structure with its network of 26 bones and over 100 ligaments.  The foot is also rich in sensory receptors. Through awareness, we can engage these receptors to bring attention to how each step feels. By using this sensory input we build walking power.

Here’s an exercise to help you get started. Basically, you will be walking in slow motion.

  • Begin with a slight knee lift of one leg before it straightens and extends forward for the first step.
  • Swing the opposite arm forward to counter-balance the leg.
  • With the forward foot dorsiflexed (toes pulled up toward the body), drop the heel so that it firmly strikes the ground.
  • Roll from the heel through to the toes.
  • As the toes drop, and the entire foot comes into contact with the surface, shift your weight (or center of gravity) forward over that leg and grip the toes gently.
  • At the same time, tuck the pelvis under, squeeze the buttocks (your powerhouse), and push off with the toes of the back foot. This “push off” will propel you into your next step.
  • Repeat this exercise slowly and methodically, one step at a time. Pay attention to the sensations of each step.

The process of breaking down your gait, one step at a time, helps build an awareness of the role that proper mechanics play in walking. With enough practice, your body memory will translate this awareness into walking power to help energize, stabilize and strengthen every step.

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