Year of the Habit: Step Up your Daily Walking Routine
Are you ready to put your best foot forward and embark on a journey to better physical and mental health? Let’s get started with the next installment in our healthy habits series! (ICYMI, you can check out our previous suggestions for drinking more water and getting better sleep.)
First of all, why does walking matter at all? Aren’t you supposed to be hitting the gym instead? Well, sure. It’s good to do strength workouts and work up a sweat with cardio classes, but walking has an awful lot of benefits. Even if you’re already doing intense workouts a few times a week, walking can help break up long periods of sitting on your rest days. And if you’re currently getting no exercise at all, walking is the activity option with the lowest barrier to getting started. Plus, getting outside under the clear sky can have a fantastic effect on your mood, making it a perfect way to start each day.
So, let’s take a look at 3 ways you can up your walking game. As with our other articles in this series, we suggest that you mix and match these suggestions for best results. There’s no one best way to start, so choose the path that suits you best and let's get walking!
Turn your walking routine into a social event! Whether it's with family, friends, or even your furry pets, having a walking buddy can make the experience more enjoyable and help you stay accountable. One popular method if you live within 20 to 40 minutes away on foot from a friend is to designate a central point between your homes. Walk there, hang out a bit with your friend, then head back home the way you came! You can also select a range of local walking spots like parks or school tracks (if permitted), and meet there a few times a week to gossip and get those steps in. When you’re not walking alone, you’ll find that time really flies!
Listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks is a fantastic way to make walking more enjoyable and provide a mental escape while you're on the move. If you’re a music lover, create a playlist of your favorite upbeat tunes, or find a pre-made one in the catalog of your preferred music app and discover some new artists. Make the playlist match the length of your walk, and include slower tracks at the beginning and end to help you warm up and cool down. Not a music fan? An audiobook with an engaging story can work wonders on your walking routine if you only allow yourself to listen while you walk. Ditto for podcasts, which can sometimes last exactly the length of your planned route.
Multitask with Daily Errands
Maybe you don’t have a consistent enough schedule to allow you to get 30 minutes in every morning, but all is not lost! Looking ahead at your week, what errands do you need to run that could be accomplished on foot? Instead of driving or taking public transportation, choose walking instead! If you’ve just got to pick up a few things, walk to the grocery store with a backpack for your purchases. If you must drive to get to your errands, do your best to park only once and walk between the spots you need to hit. Take the next month to make it a habit to choose walking over driving whenever it's feasible and safe, and then work on making walking a permanent lifestyle change.
Remember, the key to building a sustainable daily walking habit is consistency, enjoyment, and gradual progress. Start by committing to a daily walk for the next month, and you’ll come to appreciate the physical and mental health benefits walking has to offer. Happy walking!