Swinging your arms naturally as you walk is important for stability and to help propel you forward. Most people swing their arms slightly as they walk with the opposite arm and leg advancing at the same time. In fact, holding your arms straight to your side uses more energy than naturally swinging them.1 Focusing on moving your arms more while you walk can help propel you along more quickly and add benefit to your walking workout. Intentionally, but naturally, pumping your arms while you walk can increase the aerobic benefit of walking and develop muscle strength and control in your arms, chest, and back.2
Focus on form
- Be sure to warm up your upper body, as well as your lower body, including arms, neck, shoulders, chest, and torso before your walking workout.
- Move your arms up and back so that the opposite arm and leg are advancing at the same time. Most people do this naturally.
- Keep your elbows bent at 90º. If your arms are too straight, it can be hard to swing them enough to achieve a good speed. If your hands swell during exercise, keeping your elbows bent can also help you avoid or minimize that.3
- Hold your fists loosely, fingers in a partially closed curl, not tightly clenched. Think of holding a raw egg you’re trying not to crack or drop.3
- Move your arms forward and back, keeping your elbows close to your body. Swinging your elbows out away from your body will expend unnecessary energy.
- When swinging your arms, the movement should come from your shoulders, not your elbows.4
- Don’t bring your hands across the center point of your body. You may have a slight diagonal swing, but this should not be pronounced or cross your body.4
- Bring your forward hand to chest level and then exaggerate the backward movement slightly, so your hand is reaching towards your back pocket.5
- Allow your hands and elbow to travel back and forth, swinging from the shoulders, but don’t force it – stay within a comfortable range of motion, which is different for everyone.
- Meyns P, Bruijn SM, Duysens J. The how and why of arm swing during human walking. Gait & Posture. 2013;38(4):555-562. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.02.006.
- Wilson MA. Walking and arm pumping – a total body workout. Sit and Be Fit. https://www.sitandbefit.org/walking-arm-pumping/. Published October 25, 2021. Accessed February 8, 2023.
- Anderson D. How to walk with proper form and technique. SparkPeople. https://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1220. Published November 7, 2008. Accessed February 8, 2023.
- Harvard University. Perfecting your walking technique. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/perfecting-your-walking-technique. Published May 25, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2023.
- Bumgardner W. Why you should use an arm swinging motion to walk faster. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-walk-faster-arm-motion-3432919. Published June 3, 2021. Accessed February 8, 2023.