“Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” The Heat Miser
For me, walking = life. There are so many reasons why you should incorporate daily walks into your life, the number one being that it will help you to manage your stress before your stress manages you. In this post, I’ll discuss how walking can improve your life, how to get yourself to walk more and 5 benefits of walking.
Walking Is The Perfect Low Impact Exercise
Walking is one of my all-time favorite ways to exercise. It’s simple, doesn’t require any special equipment and it meets you where you are. And by that, I mean, if you’re new to exercising, you can start slow and build up your stamina; while you can engage in powerwalking if you’re already fairly fit.
If you haven’t exercised in a while and you’re looking for a simple way to ease back into an exercise routine, consider giving walking a try. Because it’s the perfect low impact way to exercise.
If you’re just starting out, try going on a 10- or 15-minute walk around your neighborhood and work your way up from there. For those of you already in great shape, up the intensity of your walk. You can walk at a faster pace, incorporate hills and inclines such as stairs into your path or increase the length of your walk.
On those days when the sky has opened up and the weather is bad, you can still get a walking workout in, you just have to be creative. Try going to your local mall and walking around its interior several times (window shopping at your own risk 😊), if you’re lucky enough to own one, you can hop on your treadmill or you can even walk in place in front of your TV.
As you're sitting on the couch at night watching TV, get up during commercial breaks and march in place until your show comes back on. If you’re using a commercial free streaming service like Netflix, walk in place for 10 minutes in between episodes. If you really want to amp up the challenge, march in place during an entire episode of your favorite show. Time will fly while you’re having fun watching TV.
Other ways to make going for a walk more fun:
Mix up your route by walking in different areas of town or visiting different parks or walking trails.
Invite a friend to be your walking buddy and come along with you. They can also do double duty by holding you accountable.
Grab your phone and listen to music, podcasts, language lessons or audio books as you walk to make the time go by faster.
When going on vacation (or visiting family and friends) make note of places to walk in their area and go.
Borrow a friend’s dog (if you don’t have your own) or consider volunteering at a local animal shelter to take dogs on a walk.
It doesn’t matter how you decide to incorporate walking into your life, the main thing is that you get out there, move around, and get some exercise in a way that’s gentle on your body.
5 Health Benefits Of Walking
Did you know that walking is one of the best things that you can do for your health?
There are so many great reasons to walk. It’s fun and relaxing, it can add to your sense of adventure as you explore new neighborhoods and most important of all, it’s good for your health. Read on for a closer look at 5 of walking’s benefits.
1. Walking Gets You Closer To Nature
There’s nothing that beats being outside in the fresh air especially on a day when there are blue skies and the sun is shining. You get to see the breeze in the trees and feel it on your skin. A kiss of vitamin D and oxygen helps you come alive. Particularly if you’ve been stressed.
If the air quality in your neighborhood isn’t the best, consider going to a park, the beach or a hiking trail to commune even closer to nature.
2. Walking Can Help You Get To And Maintain A Healthy Weight
To get to a healthy weight, focus your walking on distance and build up your endurance. Once you get to your goal, walk at a quick pace and focus on your speed and form.
Doing this in conjunction with watching what you eat and having a healthy diet is a way to achieve your weight goals.
3. Walking Improves Your Sense Of Balance And Coordination
As you walk, particularly when walking over rougher terrain, you’re also working on your sense of balance and coordination.
Because that rougher, tricky terrain forces you to pay attention to secure your footing.
You can even work on your balance and coordination when you’re walking on straight, smooth terrain. Incorporate lunging exercises into your walking routine. You can also practice walking an invisible straight line.
4. Walking Strengthens Your Bones and Muscles
One of the things that makes walking so great is that it helps to strengthen your body, tones your muscles and develops your bone density. Adding strength training exercises helps increase walking’s ability to keep you getting stronger.
5. Walking Will Boost Your Mood and Fight Depression
Endorphins are those feel-good chemicals that our bodies release when things are going well. They help us to be happy. Walking is one way to release endorphins. The next time you’re feeling tired or you’re in a bad mood, lace up your sneakers and go for a brisk walk. It can help lift your mood and ward off depression.
But sometimes when life gets busy, it can be hard to feel like going for a walk. That's when it's helpful to have developed a walking habit.
Getting Into The Habit Of Walking
By now you should be ready to put on your sneakers and head out the door! However, sometimes it can be easier said than done. Because we all know that making time to take a daily walk can be difficult. Between family and work it isn't always possible, but working out doesn't have to be done all at once.
So how do you develop a walking habit?
If you’ve been around the Making Time Blog for any length of time, then you know that walking is a great stress reliever. Because as humans, we’re meant to move! Our ancient ancestors walked for miles as they hunted and gathered food.
But today, most of us have sedentary lifestyles, which isn’t good for our bodies and can lead to health problems. Which is why you’ve got to move it or lose it and try to go for a daily walk. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Between sitting while working, eating while sitting down and relaxation activities like bingeing on Netflix – that’s a lot of sitting.
Which is exactly why you have to make the time to take the time to walk. It may be hard at first, but once it becomes a habit, it won’t be as much of a challenge to make sure that you go for a walk each day.
A great way to motivate yourself is to find a walking route you enjoy. If you’re new to walking, it helps to make it as easy as possible. Your favorite walk may offer beautiful vistas, but if it’s a 30-minute drive there and back, you’re not gonna want to do it every single day. Instead, save that particular walk for the weekend and find a route that more convenient for your everyday walking routine. For your daily walk, I always feel that it’s best to take a route in your neighborhood. The ease and convenience makes it more likely that you’ll walk. Seasoned walkers can challenge themselves with hilly or rougher terrain.
One way of developing the walking habit is by taking the same route every day. You can add variety by making a point of noting different things each time, such as the leaves in the trees, what the sidewalk or ground looks like, details on the houses or buildings along your route or even what the clouds look like as you walk each day.
Another way to make walking a habit, is to make it more enjoyable. Try listening to music, podcasts or audio books will help the time fly by. Especially if you turn your walk into a special time by making it the only time you listen to those things. It gives you something to look forward to. Think of it as a little motivational “bribe” to make your new walking habit stick. 😊
Another very effective way to get into the habit of walking that I’ll mention here is to be held accountable by others. How? By getting a walking buddy. If you don’t have a friend or family member that’s interested, try meetup to find a walking group in your area. This is a great way to build up your walking habit because it’s a lot harder to skip your daily walk if you know that others are relying on you.
Finally, if you’re competitive, consider turning walking into a challenge for yourself. You can use a habit tracker to mark off each day that you walk. Then push yourself to keep your streak alive! Can you walk more days or more steps this week than you did last week? How about walking for a longer period of time? The ways you can challenge yourself while using the habit tracker are endless!
You can also consider using a pedometer to increase your motivation to walk.
Using A Pedometer To Get Your Walking In
Speaking of ways to challenge yourself and make walking more fun by turning it into a habit, what if I told you that you didn’t have to dedicate a set block of time for your walking workouts? Suppose you could get the same health benefits by working in a little more activity here and there throughout your day? And what if there was a fun little gadget that helped you keep track of it and motivated you to move more?
I’m sure you’d be excited! Well guess what! It’s called a pedometer!
Pedometers are super cool and come in a variety of styles, from a simple one that just counts your steps, to fancy ones with all the bells and whistles. You can get an inexpensive version from Target, Walmart, or Amazon. My personal favorite is Fitbit (I love my Fitbit). But before you spend any money, look at your smart phone. Most have a built in pedometer.
Depending on your pedometer’s style, not only will track how many steps you take each day, it’ll also track how many minutes you’ve spent being active, how many miles you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burned. Which all adds up to being another way of tracking how much exercise you get during your day.
When you use a pedometer, it doesn’t matter if you get your walking in all at once, or if you walk in little spurts throughout the day. Your pedometer will track it all!
Once you have your pedometer, the next step is figuring out how to incorporate the waling into your day. Maybe you start your day by parking a little further away from the office and walking a couple of hundred extra steps (or getting off at an earlier bus or train station stop). Then you take a quick stroll during your lunch break. Wrap up your day by walking around your neighborhood for a pre or post dinner stroll. And just like that you’ve gotten your steps in without having to block out any additional time.
So, what are you waiting for? For the next week, put on your pedometer (or make sure you have your phone in your pocket) and see how much you’re walking around any given day. That’ll be your benchmark. Once you have that number, try to get a little more active as time goes by until you hit your step goal. The traditional number is 10,000 steps per day. But if you’re feeling more ambitious than that, go for it!
Keeping track of your steps can really motivate you. I love it when I look at my pedometer and realize that I’m 2,000 steps away from my daily goal. And it can be the same for you.
Walking Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure And Strengthen Your Heart
In addition to all of the other benefits this post has named. Walking also helps lower your blood pressure and strengthen your heart. Many people who are at risk for stroke and heart disease are have a hard time with traditional exercise and can be overweight. The good thing is that walking is easy, low-impact and something that almost anyone can do.
You start where you are. All you have to do is put on your shoes and head outside. If you can only walk for five to ten minutes, that’s okay. Try it for a week and then up it to 15 minutes.
If you’re able to go for 30 minute walk, then that’s where you start. Pick up the pace, walk briskly and after a week or two, bump it up to 45 minutes per walk. Or once you hit the 45 minute mark, you can break up your walking workout into 3 shorter sessions throughout the day.
As with any health condition, if you have high blood pressure and are at risk for heart disease, you should discuss your walking plans with your doctor. The two of you can come up with a plan that’s appropriate and safe for you.
Walking in a park is very relaxing and will lower your blood pressure soon after the walk. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Regular exercise strengthens your heart which is a muscle and going for a brisk walk works out more than your leg muscles. As you work out your heart, it gets stronger and better at pumping blood through your body. And as you strengthen your muscles and your body overall, you are likely losing body fat. That’s good news for your blood pressure long term.
Healthy diet, regular exercise, and losing weight are some of the most effective ways to reduce hypertension regularly. Add to that the fact that walking helps you destress and it’s no wonder that walking regularly has such beneficial effects on your health.
Ready to get started? Put on your shoes and go for that first walk. It’s all about Making Time.
Let's talk, how do you intend to incorporate more walking into your everyday routine? Let me know in the comments section.
Cassandra Martin-Himmons is a facilitator, stress management coach and author of “Yes I’m Grateful,” a gratitude journal. She believes in empowering her clients to help them manage their stress and increase self-care. In her spare time, she enjoys papercrafting, volunteering and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn