INSIDE: Walking is a simple and low impact exercise that can literally transform your life. It took me a while to get into a groove, but once I did, I made the shift from dreading my daily walks to absolutely loving them. Here’s how you can too!
I have a confession to make…
I’m kind of addicted to walking.
Well, it’s not really an addiction, but it has transformed my life so much that I get antsy when a schedule change makes me miss my daily walk.
I look forward to my walks each day, and most of all, I love how they make me feel.
But it wasn’t always that way – that’s for sure!
Before I got past the “difficult” part of walking, I would have to force myself to go for a walk and I would find excuses to make it as short as possible…
It was too cold out, too hot, too windy, I was too tired, etc.
Honestly, I dealt with that for years until I finally made the shift to loving it.
The truth is, walking isn’t difficult, which is why I put it in quotes above. But it feels difficult until we get into a groove. The trick is to stop stopping right before you find that groove.
This article explains how I got into my groove and how you can too!
I hope it motivates you to stick to your walking schedule until you love it.
The Health Benefits of Walking
Our bodies were actually designed to walk for miles, and if you look back in history, you can see that people were always up and moving around. It wasn’t until the more recent modern advancements came into play that we spend most of our time sitting down.
Our bodies need to stay in motion in order to function properly. When we lead sedentary lives, our organs start to shut down and we develop chronic diseases that keep us from living our best lives.
Walking is one of the best and most convenient exercises, for all of the following reasons and more…
Walking is Good For the Mind, Body & Soul
Because walking is done mostly outdoors, it’s a great way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, both of which are essential to your well-being.
Fresh air revives the soul, helps you release stress, and improves mental clarity. It’s exhilarating and peaceful.
Sunshine provides vitamin D, which is essential to health and wellness. According to Medical News Today, vitamin D helps us absorb calcium and phosphorus, which strengthens our bones and teeth, and it protects the body against many health conditions like cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. The sun also boosts serotonin levels in the body, helping us to feel happier, more motivated and more energized.
The repetitive motion of walking causes us to ponder and think about things, or sometimes to zone out so that we are almost in a meditative state. This is great for our mind and spirit.
For an insightful look at the history of walking and how it affects us personally, culturally, and politically, check out Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit.
Walking Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
When you walk at a brisk pace and do it on a regular basis, you’ll start to notice your body is in better shape. Fat will be replaced with muscle tone, and you’ll start to notice a difference in how you feel.
When I started walking, it took a couple weeks before I noticed a change. During that time, the walk was hard. I didn’t want to do it and it felt like work, but I figured that if I kept at it, I would start to see a difference.
Boy was I right!
After about 2-3 weeks of walking briskly every day for about 40-50 minutes per day, I started to notice how toned my legs and butt muscles were getting.
And what was really awesome is that I started to really enjoy the walks and I actually got upset if I wasn’t able to squeeze a walk into my day. That’s because it started to feel good to walk – it didn’t feel hard anymore; in fact, I found myself wanting to extend my walk to an hour.
Plus, I loved the energy it was giving me and how much easier it was to move around in general (more about that in the next section).
Although I haven’t weighed myself (because I try not to bother with that anyway), what matters most to me is how I feel in my body. And I can tell without a doubt that I have lost fat and gained muscle.
If you are overweight, you can find even more encouragement to walk because you’ll burn a lot of calories even when you go on short and slower walks. That happens because you are carrying extra weight around with you, so it’s like you’re amping up your exercise routine by carrying dumb bells.
Walking Boosts Strength, Endurance & Energy
When you walk consistently, you will start to feel stronger in both body and mind. You’ll enjoy more endurance, allowing you to walk longer, further, and faster.
Stick with it through the tough first couple weeks because you will love how good walking feels once you get through that part. The problem is that most of us never get past that part because it feels difficult, so we stop right before it was about to get easier.
After the initial difficult phase, you will find yourself having more energy, and like I mentioned earlier, it will be as if your body is lighter and you can move around easier. It’s a little hard to explain what I mean here, but here’s an example:
Before I started walking, getting up from a seated position on the floor after playing with my infant was a chore, but now, it’s like I hop right up. Let me tell you, at my age and as sleep deprived as my baby has me, that is the most wonderful thing I could ask for!
Walking Improves Balance & Coordination
Believe it or not, when you are walking, particularly if you are on rougher terrain, you are actually improving your sense of balance and coordination, which can make life easier especially if you are like me and you’ve got an infant on your hip while cooking dinner, talking on the phone, and helping your other kids with homework all at the same time.
To improve your balance and coordination even further, try turning your head to the right and left and then up and down as you walk for a count of 30 each time you turn your head. Doing these simple exercises once or twice as you walk each day will make a big difference.
Walking Strengthens Your Bones & Muscles
I love how toned my body has gotten since I’ve started walking. It’s actually kind of surprising how such a low impact exercise can make such a huge difference. It’s so nice not to feel like a flabby mom anymore!
While you might not feel the impact walking is having on your bones, you do strengthen your bones as you walk as well. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal & Skin Disease, walking is one of the best exercises for bone health because it is a weight-bearing exercise.
Just keep in mind that as you get to a new plateau – where walking feels super easy – you’ll need to amp up your routine in order to further develop your muscles and bones. For example, you might consider adding weight lifting or strength training exercises into your weekly routine in addition to your daily walks, or you could find ways to make your walks more intense.
Walking Improves Your Mood
One of my favorite health benefits of walking is the power it has to increase happiness. Any exercise (and especially those that are done outside) releases endorphins into the body, which helps lift your mood, and therefore, it can even reduce depression.
The benefits of this are almost instantaneous – you’ll notice an improvement in your mood as you are walking. When you walk consistently, you’ll also notice long-term benefits, which means you’ll have more energy every day.
Walking Can Be Social
We are social beings and we thrive around other people (the right kind of people that is). Walking can even be more enjoyable and beneficial to your mental health when you do it with others.
Consider joining a walking club or enlisting a friend to be your walking buddy. Not only will you improve your mental health, you will also notice that your walk is over before you know it and it will feel easier even during that beginning stage.
This is also a way to get some time in with friends or loved ones who you don’t normally get to spend much time with. Kill two birds with one stone!
Walking Can Strengthen Your Heart & Lower Blood Pressure
Walking on a regular basis improves heart health by lowering blood pressure levels and strengthening your heart.
There are many people who are at risk for stroke and heart disease because they are overweight, have unhealthy habits, and don’t get enough exercise. Fortunately, walking is a low-impact workout that almost anyone can do no matter their weight or health status.
Walking will improve your heart health on several different levels.
- Taking a daily walk outside in a visually appealing environment and the fresh air can be peaceful and relaxing, which in itself can serve to lower your blood pressure because stress plays a large role in heart health.
- The heart is a muscle, and going for a brisk walk helps to work out that muscle. The more you work out your heart, the stronger and better it gets at pumping blood through your body.
- As you strengthen your muscles and your body overall, you will probably lose body fat as a result, which is beneficial for your blood pressure long term.
Walking Is The Perfect Low Impact Exercise
Walking is the perfect low impact exercise if you ask me. It’s gentle on your joints, your heart, and the rest of your body, while at the same time helping to strengthen your heart and muscles.
It’s easy to do, gets you outside (usually), can be done with others, doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s an exercise that can be done at any fitness level.
If You Hardly Ever Exercise
If you have been living a more sedentary life and aren’t in the best of shape, walking is the perfect start!
It doesn’t take a lot of motivation to do it because it is relatively easy for most people, especially because you can always start slow. Also, you can walk literally anywhere so it doesn’t require money or equipment to get started.
If exercise isn’t part of your daily routine, I would suggest starting with a slow 10-15 minute walk around your neighborhood or your place of work. Then, increase the time and pace as your body acclimates.
If you have an injury or suffer from something like arthritis, walking is often the best form of exercise because it is extremely low impact, but you should always consult your healthcare provider before doing so.
If You’re Already in Good Shape
Even if you exercise regularly and are in decent shape, walking can still provide you with an effective workout since there are so many different ways to amp it up.
You could walk faster, incorporate hills and/or stairs, walk longer distances, or carry weights, for example. There is always a new way to challenge yourself.
Where to Walk
One of the best things about walking is that you can do it pretty much everywhere.
My Favorite Places to Walk
I love to walk around my neighborhood and around the school next to my neighborhood because it’s so easy to just walk out of my front door and get to work on my exercise routine.
It’s also fun to mix it up and take different routes, which has really helped me to learn more about the roads around me. I even enjoy looking at houses and landscaping as I walk because it gives me ideas for my own house.
I’m not one for putting special clothes on and driving to a gym before I can get started with my workout, at least not on a daily basis.
There are times, however, when I drive to a local park so that I can walk around the lake or go for a hike. I love to listen to my favorite music and just zone out as I walk amongst nature’s beauty.
If Weather Isn’t Cooperating
If the weather doesn’t permit walking outside, that doesn’t have to stop you from getting your workout accomplished for the day.
You can simply drive to your local mall and walk the floors. What’s funny is that when you do this, you will notice other people doing it too because you will pass them several times. You’ll make eye contact and give each other a wink or wave, knowing you’re both accomplishing your steps.
If you have a treadmill or a gym membership, you can certainly get your walk in that way as well.
Heck, there have been times when I only had another 2000 steps to complete in order to get my 10,000 steps in for the day but I didn’t feel like leaving the house so I just walked around the inside of my house over and over again.
Let’s say you want to watch some TV but you also want to get some walking in. You could even walk in place while you watch TV. If sitting on the couch at night watching TV is part of your normal routine, you could try marching in place during commercial breaks. Or consider challenging yourself to march in place during the entire show. Who needs a treadmill?!
How To Get In The Habit Of Walking More
For many people, getting out for a daily walk is easier said than done. We are so used to sitting that even simple activities like walking can feel like a chore.
We are programmed to always look for the closest parking space, to not have to get up and change the TV channels and to drive where we need to go.
Most of us sit while we work, while we eat, and even though that is true, all we want to do at the end of our day is have a Netflix marathon until we go to bed.
That’s why getting into a habit of walking is important.
I can tell you first hand that once it becomes a habit, you actually want to do it and very rarely let yourself miss a day.
But I also know that it’s hard to get to the point where it is a habit instead of a chore. It’s not incredibly hard, but when you have so many other things going on in your life, the last thing you need is one more, right?
The good news is when you do get in the habit of walking regularly, you’ll be amazed at how much it will transform your life. Let that motivate and guide you to take the actions necessary to make walking a habit.
Get Paid To Do It
Did you know, you can earn money from walking! I just found out about this and I think it’s so cool because I can now get paid to do what I’m already doing. With this app, you can earn points, which can be used to purchase things like Fitbits, Fitplan software, and even iPhones and Amazon vouchers.
The best way I have found to use this app is to share points with your family members so you can earn things faster, then sell the products you make. It’s a fun way to get the whole family exercising more often and get some extra pocket money too. Or use your Sweatcoins to earn things like South Africa Boxes (these can be earned pretty quickly), which contains gourmet food from different countries each month – fun! The offers change daily, so you’ll have different things available to you depending on when you are reading this.
I bought this armband for my phone so that I can use the Sweatcoin app (since I don’t have pockets in most of my pants). I love this one because it toggles so you can access your screen, and it has a pocket for a key and your headphones.
Look for pockets of time in your schedule when you can walk. This can be long lengths of time, such as 45 minutes, or it could be shorter blocks of time like three 15 minute sessions per day.
Don’t feel like you have any time available? Look for ways that you can multitask. For example, if there are podcasts or webinars you need to attend, walk while you watch/listen. Or if you plan on spending time with a friend, ask if you can walk together.
Wear an Activity Tracker
I absolutely love wearing an activity tracker because it really helps me meet my daily steps goal.
If you’ve never used one before, let me tell you, it can be very inspiring, so much so that if I’m at 9100 steps and it’s 9:00 at night, I often find myself pacing the house just to reach my 10,000-step goal.
It’s also really helpful to be able to gauge how many steps you take, what distance you are walking each day, and how long you walked. It’s fun to take a walk and then see how many steps you just racked up.
For most people, 10,000 steps is a good daily goal. I started there and plan to work my way up to at least 15,000.
My absolute favorite activity tracker is the Bellabeat Leaf. This is just for women – sorry guys! It’s shaped like a leaf and looks like you are wearing jewelry instead of sports equipment. You can either clip it on your clothing or wear it as a bracelet or a necklace. It tracks steps, distance, calories burned, sleep patterns, and your period. It even helps you monitor and manage your stress, and the battery lasts 6 months! Check out the Bellabeat options here!
For both guys and gals, I’ve also used a Fitbit before and I really like that as well. There are so many different versions available now – you can search for the one that will work for you best here.
Choose Your Route
Choose a walking route that will inspire you to get out and walk. Whether it’s in your neighborhood, in a local park, in a business campus, on a local walking trail, or in the mall, finding a place where you will enjoy walking is an important part of creating the habit.
Keep in mind that the closer it is to your house or work, the more likely you are to stick with it. Make sure it’s convenient and a place you enjoy. You can always walk in places that are further away on weekends.
While it can be fun to try out different routes, it’s best to stick with the same one at first. It helps you establish your habit and it allows you to notice when you are covering the distance in less time or effort. It’s very fulfilling to notice that what you are doing is making a difference, which will inspire you to keep going.
Load Up Your Phone
Music can be very motivating, especially upbeat rhythms. You’ll find it’s a lot easier to push through the initial couple weeks if you get to jam out to your favorite tunes as you walk.
Do be aware of the music you choose, however. Stick with upbeat songs. Slower songs, even if they are great songs, can cause you to slow down as you walk. You want to keep your energy high.
Or, if you’re an audio book person, pick a book you know you’ll love, load it onto your phone, and then only let yourself listen to it while you’re walking. Being into a great book is a great way to incentivize yourself to walk longer and consistently.
Create Challenges For Yourself
When I walk, I like to create little challenges for myself. One day, I’ll set out to add two blocks to my walk while accomplishing it in the same amount of time. Or, I’ll take a new route and see how long it takes me.
Setting challenges for yourself makes it more fun, and it’s more fulfilling because you feel like you are accomplishing more than just walking.
Think of Ways to Add More Steps Into Your Day Naturally
It seems like as a culture in America, we are always trying to reduce our steps. If you could flip that around and try to increase your steps as you go about your day, you will naturally achieve your fitness goals without hardly trying.
Here are some examples:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Stop looking for the closest parking spot
- Walk over to your co-worker’s desk instead of emailing him
- Read while walking on a treadmill
Look up “Walk 10,000 Steps” on YouTube to get some inspirational videos for when you aren’t feeling up to a walk. Here’s one I thought was particularly inspiring…
Find a Walking Buddy or Group
If you are still finding yourself unmotivated to walk, it can be really helpful to add some accountability and socialization into the task. Ask a friend to join you on your daily walks and hold you accountable, or look for a local walking or hiking group that you can take part in.
Another fun option is to join a walking fundraiser. You’ll raise money for charity to walk a certain distance, and you’ll do group trainings each week to get prepared for it. Some of these fundraisers even take you to fun places to do the final walk, such as San Francisco or the Grand Canyon. How fun it that?
Learn How to Create New Habits in General
Forming any type of new habit can be a struggle, but there are many proven strategies that make it easier and more enjoyable. I wrote all about that in my recent article: How to Crush Your New Habit With This 3-Step Process.
Use Motivation Techniques to Stay on Track
If you struggle to keep yourself motivated to walk or just in general, it can help to learn some techniques that can help you find your personal motivation. You’ll be off to a good start with this article: How to Access the Personal Motivation You Need to Achieve Your Dreams.
Track Your Progress
One thing that I find keeps me on target is to track my progress. This is true for anything in my life, and walking is no different.
When I started walking, I created a tracking sheet that recorded how long I walked, how many steps I took, calories burned, and how I felt before, during, and after my walk. You can grab my tracking sheet for free right here:
Some of that information you’ll only be able to write down if you are using an activity tracker, but you can certainly skip those parts because the most important things to note are how long you walk and how you felt.
Interesting Facts About Walking
- In 1140 AD, pilgrimages along the Camino de Santiago were so popular that the first travel guide was published. It was called the Codex Calixtinus.
- The mile was defined by the Romans in 100 AD. It was measured by 1000 military paces, which are equivalent to two steps each.
- The world’s oldest surviving walking club was formed in 1864 and is known as the Black Forest Wanterverein in Germany.
- 1860 to 1903 was known as the Pedestrian Age because walking was the leading sport in Europe and America at the time. Long distance walkers earned more per race than basketball players of today!
I hope you are able to use the strategies in this article to get into your walking groove. Give yourself the time and motivation you need – it’s so worth it!
Comment below with one way this article has inspired you to get into your walking groove, and I’ll send you a free gift!
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