We know that being sedentary can be a major drag on personal well-being, but the alternative doesn’t have to be signing up for the next iron man triathlon. In fact, before plunking down the dough to sign up for a gym, consider ramping up slowly by doing something that’s simple and that almost anyone can do every day—walking. Often overlooked, walking has one of the lowest barriers to entry, and it’s something that very often can be done socially—with a friend, family member, or co-worker—for even more motivation and support.
Walking should be fun, easy, and good for you, but the same stroll can get a little dull day after day. To make that daily stroll a bit more interesting and enjoyable, we’ve compiled a half dozen ideas to mix things up and enhance the normal walking experience. Hopefully you’ll feel the benefits in both body and mind, and enjoy a creative way to work in a walk each day. Enjoy…
Change your walking terrain. Take a walk on a natural surface of grass, sand, dirt, or gravel. Some research shows that always treading across man-made expanses could increase your risk of joint pain and overuse injuries. Natural surfaces like grass, sand, dirt, or gravel offer a more cushioned walking surface and force you to use your legs and abdominal muscles to stabilize yourself as you mosey along.
Hoof it to a favorite spot. Pick a favorite local spot and pledge to go there on foot in the next week. This could be a coffee shop, store, park, or view—any place where you feel happy and that you can get to on foot in 10 or 15 minutes. If you connect exercise with a local destination that makes you happy, you increase your chances of actually taking the walk—while also benefiting from going somewhere you enjoy!
Aim high while you walk. As you plan today’s walk, incorporate some nearby stairs. Some possibilities: If you live near a school or university, head to the running track, and after walking, climb to the top of the stadium steps. Or if you work in an office building, take a walk at lunch and use the stairs instead of the elevator to return to your office. Adding stairs to your stroll can change up the pace and get your heart pumping, creating an even-better-for-you walk.
Walk tall and pay attention to your posture. Are you slouching? Favoring one leg over another? Leaning forward or back while you walk? Imagine an invisible string is being pulled gently upward from the top of your head with every step you take. Try also to look forward (not down) while you walk, and remember to breathe deeply, opening your chest and shoulders as you do. By walking tall, you’ll help to reverse some of that strain and soreness, and take in more oxygen, to boot.
Make some moves. Incorporate knee lifts and jumping jacks into a walk today. At the start of your walk, set a timer on your phone or watch for five minutes. When it goes off, stop, stand in place, and do a set of three knee lifts. Walk for another five minutes, and then stop and do three jumping jacks. Repeat this cycle as often as you like, until your walk is done. By incorporating some calisthenics into your walk, other parts of your body and different muscle groups will get additional conditioning.
“Read” while you walk. With an audio book or podcast, that is. Thousands of books are available online; most are inexpensive and some are even free. You can also download free podcasts on a wide variety of topics. By listening to an absorbing story or compelling podcast, you’re more likely to focus less on your walking and more on what you hear. This kind of healthy distraction often leads to longer (and more enjoyable) walks.