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A better way to walk?

July 27, 2017 — Glyn Faulkner

I knew it was you. I could tell by the way you walk.

That simple observation has some profound implications. Not only that there is more than one way to walk, but that there so are many possible ways to walk that at least a subset of people are identifiable by their gait.

With multiple possible ways a person can walk, are some ways better than others? It doesn't seem particularly reasonable to assume that there is one single "best" way to walk, but perhaps there might be some gaits that are particularly energy-efficient, or particularly suited to covering long distances quickly, perhaps affected by factors such as height and build.

Walking is such a commonplace and habitual activity, I wonder how many people have even thought about how they actually do it. Unless you have had an accident that necessitated re-learning to walk, or are an actor who had to learn to adopt the gait to suit a character you may not have paid attention to the details. Which muscles do you use at what phase of your stride? How do your feet strike the ground, and what effect does your footwear have? Do you use your legs symmetrically, or are there differences in muscle tone and control?

So the next time you notice yourself walking, see if you can work out how you do it. Ask yourself whether you could do it better.

And then ask yourself what other habitual behaviours you have never brought under the light of your conscious awareness.

Tags: walking, habits

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