Fascia-Forward Walking: How Improving Your Posture Will Improve Your Walks

I just moved to a new area that has beautiful walking options. My little deck looks out onto the walking path, so I see people walking all the time. Even from the distance of my deck, I can tell a lot about someone’s fascia from their posture and gait. I can also predict where they will likely feel stiffness and pain. I don’t stop people and validate my assumptions, but my experience with hundreds, maybe thousands of clients by now counts for a lot.

A Quick Fascia Primer

Just a quick fascia primer before I continue. Your fascia creates itself 100% based on the pressures experienced by your body. The forces are primarily made up of gravity and your posture and movement choices. Your fascia detects and interprets the pressures and either removes unnecessary fascia or builds up more fascia where you need it. Your fascia and the rest of your body are so adaptive. So, we must remember that our fascia is shaped by the forces we put into our bodies, which profoundly affects our bodies as a whole. After reading this, I hope you will make very conscious choices in your future postures and walking patterns.

Walking is so good for you!

I LOVE that so many people are out walking, but…

I wish I could wave a magic wand and give everyone better posture. Your posture matters, and it matters even more when you are walking. According to Katy Bowman, biomechanist and posture guru, when we walk, we deal with forces 1.5 to 1.75 times our body weight. What does this mean? Let’s make the math easy. If a person weighs 200 pounds, when standing still, the force of gravity sends about 200 pounds through the body’s tissues. When you are walking, you are creating more force. Depending on how you walk, it may be slightly more or much more. We are also transferring weight from one leg to the other, so we are not evenly distributing weight across both legs. So your body may be experiencing 250 pounds of force or up to 275 pounds when walking versus standing. Running is even higher.

Let’s break the idea down even further. I often see the head-forward posture I’ve written about before (see the Turtle Neck blog post). The average human head weighs slightly more than 10 pounds and is designed to stack directly on top of the spine. When it is stacked as designed, the force of the head’s weight is sent down through the spine. This is good! That force is beneficial and helps our bones become stronger. When in the alignment it was designed to be, the spine can handle the extra weight of the head when walking and even running (an extra 2-3 times the weight).

When the head is held forward (not as designed), the bones aren’t absorbing the force, and the soft tissues (muscle and fascia) must kick into high gear and provide the structural support the bones are designed to do. If the same numbers hold true, the force of the forward head into the tissues is now 15 to 17.5 pounds.

Imagine if I told you to hold two 8-pound dumbbells out in front of you during your entire walk. Your shoulders would be killing you even after just 5 minutes!

This is a 12-pound ball. Yikes!

When our fascia has to pick up the slack, it becomes rigid and thick. This thicker, denser fascia can lead to many unpleasant issues. Neck pain, shoulder pain, TMJ pain, and headaches are common. The fascia is the environment of your circulatory and nervous system structures. The denser fascia causes extra pressure these structures are not designed to endure.

What can you do to improve your posture?

Stand with your back to a wall. Try to feel your entire rib cage against the wall. Then see if you can touch your lower skull to the wall. If you are unsure what I mean, touch the back of your head with your fingers and slide them down until you feel where the skull starts to round to the base. Right where it starts to round, try to touch that area to the wall. If you cannot do this, your head is stuck too far forward. Now what?

Your fascia continually remolds itself based on the pressure you put into your body. So continually practice gently pushing into the resistance you feel, which will help recreate your body back into better alignment. If you continue to keep your head forward, your fascia will create denser and thicker fascia on the back of your neck and upper shoulders to support your 10+ pound head in that forward position. If you are walking or running with the head forward, you are accelerating that process.

Be patient. Fascia remolds slowly. Think consistency over intensity. If you consistently work on this, you can change it in a matter of weeks.

Here’s what else you can do.

Myofascial release can help soften and break down adhesions in the fascia. You can do this yourself by stretching via the myofascial principles or by working with a myofascial therapist. This can accelerate the changes in your fascia.

Check out my eBook on self-treatment.

Take a myofascial self-treatment or posture class.

Schedule an appointment.

Here’s what I plan to do.

I’m going to make a T-shirt. I won’t impose on anyone, but if they want a little advice, I’m happy to give it. Or, go read my blog.

I’m not sure I’ll actually do this but maybe!

Just a bit more…

Below is a picture I use in my posture class. The blue arrows represent gravity, the force constantly pressing down on all of us. We benefit from gravity when we are stacking our bones as our bodies are designed. It helps to keep our bones strong. When we don’t practice good posture most of the time, gravity becomes something we must fight against. Our muscles have to work harder. Over time the fascia adapts to take over for the muscles by becoming thicker and denser. This dense fascia makes us feel stuck, and we are. It can be done, but it takes consistent effort to physically change the fascia.

As I was writing this blog on my little deck, two women about the same size and age walked past at different times. Both women had the exact same posture (the person on the left). Both were equally as head forward as this picture. I’m so glad they are out there moving their bodies. Moving versus not moving, even with less-than-perfect posture, is the better choice, but if we can make our walks work for us, why not?

Get out there and walk! And…

2 thoughts on “Fascia-Forward Walking: How Improving Your Posture Will Improve Your Walks”

Leave a Reply