Do I need to stretch before I walk?

It is important to warm up before you begin walking. Increasing the temperature in your muscles and joints and increasing blood flow will make you more comfortable when you exercise and reduce the risk of injury. America's Walking suggests a six-step, three-minute, Pre-Walk Warm-Up Routine.

It is also a good idea to stretch after walking, when your muscles are the most warm and flexible. This is a way to keep or improve flexibility in muscles and joints. Just a 3-Minute Post Walk Stretch Routine is enough to reduce your chances of injuries and to help maintain a healthy range of movement. America's Walking suggests holding each of these three stretches for six to eight breaths, and going through the cycle twice if you have time:

  1. Calf and hip stretch
  2. Back and hamstring stretch
  3. Shin and thigh stretch

This informational brochure on walking (PDF) from the National Institutes of Health also contains stretching exercises for the beginning and end of a walk.