WHERE SHOULD YOU LOOK WHEN YOU WALK?
But how do you see the tree roots and the sidewalk cracks if you are not looking for them? This is an incredibly important question. I have the answer for you, but:
- First we need to understand how dangerous it is to look down at your feet as you walk. It makes the body really unstable, throwing your balance off in the process. In our desire to not fall by looking for hazards, we are making ourselves MORE likely.
- Second, the answer to the question is a complex one. There is no one place we should look. Rules for this are very similar to the rules for driving a car. We actually have to be aware of at least 2 views as we drive. We have to be aware of what is immediately around our car and we also have to be aware of traffic far down the road. Walking is similar. We have to be aware of hazards near us and we have to be looking way ahead, toward where our destination is.
I've recently had an incredibly powerful example of what this means. We are presently caring for a wonderful but frail 95 year old woman. We help her walk by holding her hands. When she looks down as she walks her body becomes extremely unstable. If we were not holding onto her she would fall. When she looks forward, her body is FAR stronger and more able. Because of her frailty, we see the effects of this terrible habit dramatically.
- Before starting, survey the distance you have to travel, looking for especially tricky places. During your walk, stop at other times to resurvey your field. Stop walking while doing this.
- Use your peripheral vision to become more aware of your immediate surroundings while still looking ahead in the direction you are going. Eye exercises can help. As you look straight ahead, sense your periphery without actually looking at it. Try practicing this by looking straight ahead while sitting down. Have your hands on your knees. Try to "see" your hands while still looking straight ahead.
- From time to time you can quickly look at what's near your feet by shifting your eyes downward, but do not tilt you head to do it. Your head remains upright while you lower your eyes (beyond your glass frames). Read more about this technique by clicking on the article Head Tilts and Eye Moves.
Where should we look when we walk?
- Before you move, start out surveying the territory you will be traversing, noting any possible hazards.
- Stand up. Pause for a few moments to get your bearings before you begin walking.
- Look straight ahead as you walk. Shift your eyes downward to view if necessary. Also use your peripheral vision to sense.
- Make sure to pick your feet up as you walk. There is a temptation to sense hazards by sliding your feet tentatively along the ground. It is FAR safer to pick your feet up so that the foot comes directly down onto the ground instead of shuffling.
- Always look out in the direction you want to travel to.
- Stop and re survey the territory ahead at any time. Stop moving while doing this.
- Practice walking using these methods. Do so in a safe environment where there is something to hold onto while you practice.
- Practice looking straight ahead while walking (i.e., practice not looking down while you walk),
- Practice looking out the periphery while focusing straight ahead,
- Practice shifting your eyes downward while holding your head upright.
As we get older we have to be smarter in order to be able to do the things we want to do. Being smarter means using our logical processes while doing everyday actions like standing up from a seated position or walking across a parking lot. But there is an incredible silver lining that makes up for all the effort of thinking. The more conscious we are the better life is. The more we really see what's in front of us the more alive we are. Some people study for many years to learn consciousness. For those of us older it is a path for staying young and being happy.
If you are having difficulty walking then the second DVD of the Building Better Balance series is for you. You learn how to walk much more easily and at the same time pick your feet up so not only is walking better but you also fall less.