lifestyle

Walking 101: The Benefits, Goal-Setting, and Tips to Stay Motivated

MariaAug 4, 2020

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or about 30 minutes 5 days a week (1). But just how can we manage to fit that recommendation into our daily lives? After all, not everyone has access to a gym, equipment, or the time to commit to a consistent daily workout routine—not to mention the motivation to get started!

Walking is a simple, low-impact solution that can help! Adding more walking into your daily routine will not only improve your physical fitness in the short-term but will also provide long-lasting benefits for both your physical and mental health.

Keep reading to learn how incorporating walking into your daily routine can provide these benefits, as well as to find tips on how to fit walking into your busy schedule!

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The benefits of walking

Walking can be a great option to help you fit in your recommended activity each week! For starters, walking requires very little equipment and is free to enjoy. The hardest part is simply finding the time and motivation to get started, which we'll cover later in this guide.

By incorporating walking into your daily routine, you'll be rewarded with many tangible and life-long benefits, including:

  • Reducing body fat (1)
  • Lowering blood pressure (1)
  • Improving cognitive function (2)
  • Improving heart function (3)
  • Lowering stress levels (3)
  • Improving sleep quality (3)
  • Lowering blood sugar (4)
  • Improving your immune system (4)

It's easy to see that walking not only helps with many physical aspects of your body but also improves your mental wellbeing. By increasing your time spent walking, you can start to see some of these benefits in your own life!

How much should I walk each day?

You may be tempted to go from 0 to 100 when starting up a new walking habit but that can quickly lead to burnout or worse: an injury. The key to making walking a long-term exercise that you enjoy is to take it step-by-step and set a goal that works for you.

Although 10,000 steps has become the standard goal for many fitness devices and apps, the reality is that you don't have to reach 10,000 steps per day to reap the benefits of walking.

Taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes 5 times a week can help you to meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic exercise but be sure to do what suits you and your lifestyle and start at a pace that fits your needs.

If you are currently living more of a sedentary lifestyle, you can simply start small and work toward those larger goals over time. Increasing your goal steadily over several weeks or months can be a great starting point, no matter your baseline fitness level.

If you're only able to fit in 10 or 15 minutes of exercise into your day, don't sweat it. You'll make that time up later on as you settle into a schedule that works for you, and doing some exercise several times a week is always better than none at all! Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, and work your way up from there!

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Ready to get started? Be sure to plan ahead!

It can be easy to forget your walking goals amidst running errands, working, taking care of children, planning and cooking dinner, etc., so preparation is key to help you prioritize your goal to start walking more!

Before starting off your new walking habit, make sure to:

  • Find quality footwear. Make sure your shoes are comfortable, have enough arch support, and are suited for the weather. If your shoes are in need of an upgrade, a speciality walking and running shoe store may be a good place to start. Employees at those stores are typically trained to help you find the best fit to suit your needs!
  • Locate comfortable clothing, including layers and extra gear. Beyond just finding comfortable clothing, it's a good idea to dress in layers if you're going to be walking outdoors in chillier weather and remember to cover your hands, head, and ears if it's a colder day outside. If it's dark when you plan to go out and walk, be sure to wear reflective gear!
  • Schedule your walks in advance. If you don't make walking a priority, it's easy to push it off to the next day, and then the next. Make sure to set aside the time you'd like to spend walking at the beginning of each week to help you stick to your goals.
  • Gather your gear the night before. Having your walking gear ready to go in advance of any planned walks will help you to avoid any excuses to skip out on your walk the next day. This means making sure that your favorite pair of shorts is washed and dried or finding and filling up your water bottle early so you're ready to go as soon as your scheduled walking time arrives!

Stay motivated & consistent

Now that you've done all the prep-work, it's time to prove that you're ready to work towards improving your health for the long haul! Avoid burnout and stay consistent with these tips:

  • Switch it up. If you're getting bored of your typical walking routine, make a change to keep things fresh! Set a harder goal to push yourself, invite a friend or family member to walk with you, try listening to a new podcast or some new favorite tunes, or just spend some time taking in the scenery the next time you go out!
  • Stay accountable. Enlist a friend or family member to serve as your walking buddy who will help to keep you accountable as you work to meet your walking goals. Set weekly or bi-monthly check-ins to help you stay on track.
  • Think of what you're gaining. When the going gets tough, remind yourself what you're working towards: improved physical health and mental well-being!
  • Stay excited! Whether it's a new water bottle, fitness tracker, or a little friendly competition with a step challenge on Stridekick, find fun things that will help to keep you engaged, especially for those days when you might be lacking motivation.
  • Plan your days off. It's important to remember to schedule rest days into your routine to help you avoid burnout and exhaustion. Rest days will help you improve in the long run!
  • Forgive and forget. If you miss a day, don't fret! Acknowledge that you missed a day and that's okay, and then get right back to your schedule like it never happened.
  • Keep track of your progress. There's no better feeling than looking back at the progress you've made so far to motivate yourself to keep moving forward. Tracking your progress will also help you set better goals for the future based on what you've already accomplished.

Remember: No two walking journeys are the same

There's no one-size-fits-all walking schedule that will work for everyone, so do what works best for you to help you achieve your fitness goals. Although it can be difficult to start and to stay consistent, we hope these tips will help you as you incorporate more walking into your daily routine. Your body and your mind will surely thank you!

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/19/health/reverse-cognitive-aging-exercise-diet-study/index.html
  3. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/walking-workouts
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-walking

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