Why You Don’t Have To Try To Improve Your Arm Swing
Updated: Nov 10
Walking with a natural arm swing is important to many Stroke Survivors. For good reason, arm swing is part of the natural energy conserving way that we typically walk. One thing that is good to be aware of is that arm swing is passive when we walk at slower paces. For example the pace that we walk during our daily “non-rushed” activities. And, that is the pace that lots of stroke survivors walk.
Walking mechanics have been studied and it has been determined that for the “slower” paces of walking, arm swing occurs passively. That means that we are not actively, intentionally swinging our arms when we walk. Rather, we let our arms rest freely at our sides and, because of the way we move naturally when walking, they swing alternately.
That natural movement comes from the slight rotation in 2 different parts of our torso. Those parts are:
The Pelvis- that's the part you are on when when you rest your hands your hips- consider it the lower part of the torso
The Rib Cage/Shoulders- the upper part of the torso
As we are taking a step forward with one leg, our lower torso rotates slightly with the step. At the same time, our upper torso rotates slightly in the opposite direction. Then when the next step is taken, the rotations “switch”. Because we let our arms rest freely at our sides, they flow along with this “twisting” movement- creating arm swing.
Now, as we increase our speeds, things start to change and our arm swing can become more intentional. However, for lots of Stroke Survivors, the speeds that walking occurs as you are working on your improvement do not reach levels for intentional arm swing.
Some strategies that I teach Stroke Survivors to help with arm swing are indirect and direct.
Indirect strategies include: stretches and movement activities that encourage rotation through the torso, stretching of the more affected arm toward elbow straightening and opening of the chest. Some direct strategies include: taking a moment when first standing to “let the arm rest” at the side using visualization or breathing techniques and exaggerating the components of walking relating to the rotation that occurs. By placing an emphasis on ease of movement and flexibility, many times arm swing reveals itself as your walking mechanics begin to become more natural.
If you have specific questions about improving your arm swing, you can ask me. Click Here to send me an email.