Lengthen your stride, quicken your pace, and prevent injuries with a few simple stretches.

Stretching is one of the most neglected areas of fitness, especially for walkers, but one of the most important. Not only does stretching help relax muscles, which can increase range of motion, stride length, and improve pace, but it can also help lower risk of injury and make walking more comfortable. Always warm up with a five- to 10-minute low-intensity walk before stretching, then stretch once again at the end of your walk to reduce potential muscle soreness. Here are two of our favorite lower body stretches. Hold each stretch for 18 seconds.

Calf/Achilles stretch

Stand an arm's length from wall. Hold wall with both hands, and step back with left leg until you feel the stretch in left calf. Left leg should be straight, and right knee should be bent. Lean forward toward wall, and push left heel toward ground, rear foot pointing forward. From this position, bend the rear knee to stretch the Achilles tendon. Tip: Roll hips forward for a deeper stretch. Repeat stretch on right leg. 

Hamstring stretch

Stand facing a curb or bench. Place left leg on curb with knee straight but not locked. Right leg should also be straight with foot pointing forward. Slowly bend forward from hips until you feel a stretch in the back of left leg. Repeat with right leg. Tip: Do not round your back. Keep knees soft.