Are You Using Your Body Correctly?

Learning to walk, run and move is instinctual and unconscious.  Our daily movements don’t require conscious thought, so the idea that we could be moving “wrong” seems a little odd.  Yet, in the same way that you can use poor techniques in sport, you can also develop bad habits when it comes to other movements like running, walking and even sitting.  Few of us actually take the time to think about how we go about our everyday movements, but subtle changes can save aches and pains and strengthen our bodies properly. So are you using your body correctly?


Running is a sport, and just like any other sport requires teaching and application of skills and techniques.   We might be able to run without needing initial lessons, unlike a sport like tennis, but that doesn’t mean that we are running well.  If you’re not using a decent technique you’re far more likely to sustain injuries.  The best way to learn a good technique is in a practical setting, but there are some common hallmarks of safe and effective running.  These are:

  • landing in a consistent manner on both feet
  • having a good alignment of the knees going over the toes, and not out to the side
  • a nice and upright upper body and head posture
  • landing with the toes pointing forward, and not out to the side
  • a good strong arm swing
  •  landing your feet on the surface lightly

It’s not just your feet which determine a good technique; the rest of your body also plays a big part in safe running. Your head position determines your overall posture.  Make sure you keep it naturally uplifted, looking straight ahead and not down at your feet.  This will straighten out your neck and back.  Shoulders should be kept low and loose and should remain level with every step. Your arms are an important part of running controlling tension in your upper body and helping define rhythm in your leg stride so you’re always driving forward.  Keep your hands in an unclenched fist to prevent tension building up and keep your arms moving in a straight forward and backward motion with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.

woman running in the woods in the fall

The most important thing is to get a new, safer way of running consigned to your muscle memory.  Initially you’ll need to work consciously to remember to run in a different technique, but the aim is that your muscles will “re-learn” how to run and subsequently you’ll be able to run healthily without having to think about it. If you think you make any of the following common mistakes when running then it would be a good idea to consider learning how to improve your technique:

  • Bouncing up and down too much
  • Over striding
  • Landing on the feet too heavily
  • Not using the arms enough
  • Twisting the midriff side to side too much
  • Leaning too far forward  in the head and upper body


How to lift properly:

Just like running badly you can do any movement with poor technique.  Lifting is a common cause of injury and if you don’t load your spine correctly you make yourself susceptible to injury.  Make sure you always lift the object close to your body and lift with your feet shoulder width apart to ensure a solid base.  It’s well-known advice to bend your knees and keep your back straight, but it’s often harder to remember to do this, or do it properly in practice.  If you’re used to lifting badly make sure you consciously stop before you’re about to lift and think about what you’re doing.

If you’re doing a task with a lot of lifting like moving house or sorting out the loft it’s very easy to start lifting badly after time goes on.  Like running, it’s important to get a good technique into your muscle memory.  Think about every lift and make proper lifting a habit.  As you lift keep your abdominal muscles tight and try and let your legs do the work; leg muscles are considerably stronger than back muscles.

How to sit:

If you work in a job which requires you to sit down all day you might be putting your body in trouble.  The human body isn’t designed to be sedentary and sitting for more than 6 hours a day can have significant impact upon your health.  Unfortunately, a lot of us are simply required to sit for long periods of time.  This is why it’s important to stand up as much as you can or try doing some desk-based exercises.  You can also help yourself by sitting in a properly fitted, ergonomic chair and using a back support if needs be.

How to sleep:

One thing you might not often think about is how your sleeping position might impact upon your body.  A lot of us have specific sleeping positions, but if you often sleep on your front then you’ll be putting a lot of strain on your cervical spine which can cause nerve compression, muscular imbalance and muscle pain.  The ideal sleep position is on your back.

It’s also important to consider the mattress you’re sleeping on.  A bad quality mattress which sags and digs into your back will put pressure and strain on your body for 8 hours each night, every night.  A good quality mattress which offers even support to all parts of your body can significantly reduce the chance of aches and pains developing.  It doesn’t have to be extremely firm or soft; this can vary according to your preference.

If you’re worried about any of your daily movements a physiotherapist can assess how you move, run and walk and advise you on how to improve performance to stay safe from injury.


Physiotherapist Steve Canning works for Whitehouse-Clinic, a leading Physiotherapist based in Sheffield.

One thought on “Are You Using Your Body Correctly?

  • April 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Great post! I didn’t know running had so many things to focus on. Thanks for the great information! Cheers!


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