Walking doesn't have to be a chore. In fact, with these tips, you'll look forward to daily strolls.
Walking has many benefits for your health, but if it feels more like a burden than a hobby, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get out the door. Below, we rounded up 10 tricks that will help you look forward to walking and get more out of the time you spend doing it.
Make Someone's Day
Instead of a simple hello, Sarah Schwallier, who leads walking groups in Westminster, Colorado, offers compliments to those she passes. She’ll say something like “Your bright shirt makes me happy” or “I love how your eyes sparkle.” The smiles motivate her to keep going.
Journal Your Walks
People who track their workout intentions are more likely to follow through with them, says David Sabgir, MD, a cardiologist in Westerville, Ohio, who started Walk with a Doc, a network of doctor-led walking groups across the U.S. and abroad. “It’s fun to go back and look at all the miles you’ve logged,” he says. Try Penzu if you prefer a digital diary.
Find Your Crew
We’ve all heard that exercising with others can keep you more accountable. But you don’t have to grab the same workout buddy every time. Dianne Broad, 53, of Toronto, shakes things up: Three days a week, she walks with a different friend each day, and on weekends, she joins a bigger group of four or five others. “It’s a source of support, whether for life issues, like raising kids or aging parents, or just dealing with injuries or training for a race,” she says. To find a group, visit meetup.com.
Listen Only While You Walk
Bookworm Kristie Bittleston, 44, of Concord, North Carolina, has a rule: If she wants to find out what happens next in the audiobook she’s listening to, she has to lace up her sneakers. “It motivates me to get out the door,” she says. “Long walks give me a chance to listen to a good book or a motivational podcast. It’s treasured quiet time.”
Do a Walking Rehearsal
If there’s an important presentation or tough conversation in your future, practice it while you walk. When Beverly Smith, 48, of Winterport, Maine, was cast in a community theater production of On Golden Pond, she recorded the lines on her phone and rehearsed during long walks. One reason it was better than running lines in the mirror: “Moving when I rehearsed my lines seemed to help me feel more comfortable moving onstage as I delivered them,” she says.
When Ben Pobjoy, 37, of Toronto, started walking to work in an effort to improve his health, he observed things he had missed while whizzing by in a car—notably, hungry people. That’s why he started to make sandwiches and hand them out along his walks. “It allows me to do a bit of good in the community,” he says. Another way to help while you walk: Use the app Charity Miles (free; iOS and Android), which directs corporate sponsors’ dollars to your selected charity for each mile you log.
Beat the Clock
Pick a route you’d like to follow for a few weeks and time how long it takes for you to complete it. Then see if you can finish the next walk just a little bit faster. Bend your arms and take shorter, quicker steps to speed up. Seeing your progress over time can be inspiring.
Walk and Dine
Instead of parking yourself at a table from appetizer through dessert, break up an evening out with walks between courses. That’s what Olinda Reynaud, 48, of Moseley, Virginia, did with a friend recently. “We had wine and mussels at the first restaurant, then we strolled to another place for our main course. We finished with coffee a few blocks away,” she says.
If you’ve been trying to walk faster but aren’t enjoying the challenge, you have permission to back off and go at a gentler speed. Walking is good for your body and mind even if you aren’t breaking a major sweat—so pick a pace that feels good to you. The important thing is that you enjoy walking enough to make it a regular habit.
Take in the Good
Rather than barrel through a walk to get it done, stop and enjoy the beauty around you. Darcy Kitching, 45, a program coordinator for Walk2Connect in Boulder, Colorado, makes a brief mindfulness practice part of her groups’ routines: “We might stop to gaze at a mural, sniff daffodils, or delight in watching a dog play. We let go of everything else in our heads and fill ourselves with delightful presence and joy.”