Walking is probably the easiest, cheapest and most accessible kind of exercise. And yet, going for a 30 minute walk every day will improve your heart health, boost your brainpower, ease joint pain and help you maintain a healthy weight. Not to mention that you often get the added benefits of being outdoors, like fresh air, vitamin-D producing sunshine and better immunity.
When you’re living with chronic illness, walk training is also an effective way to increase your mobility. And, as a result of being able to go places again, your quality of life may improve.
But compared to dancing, gym classes or playing team sports, walking can seem a little boring. Especially in the early days of your recovery journey, when you have to drag yourself outside and don’t have the energy to wander far from home, your usual walk around the block can becomes monotonous.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to make your walk training more fun. Of course, a lot depends on your current fitness levels and the area you live in, but most of these tips can be adapted to fit your needs. So take a look at 25 exciting ways to get more daily steps in!
01. Treat yourself. If you have shops within walking distance, get yourself a coffee-to-go, buy your favorite magazine or head over to the bakery for an artisan sourdough bread (or that yummy croissant of course!). Do you live in a more rural area? Park your car a little further away from your destination or walk up and down the high street.
02. Release your inner child and pick wild flowers, search for chestnuts and acorns, or collect smooth rocks to paint. You’ll effortlessly get your daily steps and a little nature therapy in at the same time!
03. Play tourist in your own town. How well do you really know all those sights you pass by every day? So take a closer look as you walk by your town’s hotspots. Lots of cities have mapped out themed walking routes that’ll take you along special architecture, landmarks or street art.
04. Take a mindful walk. Focus on what it feels like to move your body. Mentally zoom in on a single stride: notice how your heels touch the ground first, how your weight shifts as you move from one foot to the other. Becoming aware of your bodily sensations calms your mind and helps release tension from your body.
05. Add other outdoor exercises to your walk, like doing pull-ups on the monkey bars, press-ups on benches and wall sits against the trees.
06. Work remotely? Rotate your workstations throughout the day. You could start at a co-working space, have lunch somewhere and then walk over to that cozy cafe for your afternoon work session.
07. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your walks – and maybe even only on your walks. That way, you’ll be motivated to head outside to find out what happens next in your story!
08. Go geocaching on the weekend. Basically, geocaching is a GPS-enabled treasure hunt played all over the world. Navigating your way to wherever the treasure boxes are hidden is a fun outdoor activity for families, friends or your next date.
09. Shake up your standard walk around the block by switching up the pace. You could walk your normal pace for a few minutes, altered by 2 minutes of speed walking. Interval training is an effective way to improve your fitness quickly, but always check with your doctor is it’s the right kind of exercise for your condition.
10. Play nature bingo. See how many different birds, butterflies and bugs, flowers and/or wild mushrooms you can spot. You can even print these free nature scavenger cards to make family walks more fun. Even in urban environments, you’ll be surprised with how much natural beauty you’ll discover if only you look closely.
11. Call someone you care about during your walk. Talking on the phone can be a pleasant distraction – if you have no trouble catching your breath or simultaneously minding traffic that is.
12. Visit a sculpture garden or outdoor art installation. You can admire inspiring art works while enjoying some gentle movement and fresh air.
13. Walk and dine. Who says going out for dinner means sitting still all evening? See if nearby cities offer organized culinary walks or create your own walking dinner. Have a drink with appetizer at a local bar, head over to your favorite restaurant for the main course and end your night walking over to the ic cream parlor.
14. Try walking on different surfaces, like sand, the forest floor, or even pebbles. In some places, you can even find special barefoot trails, designed to offer these different sensations to your feet.
15. Combine your walks with chores. If you’re able to carry bags, you can get your daily steps and your strength training in by doing your grocery shopping on foot or pick up your prescription at the pharmacy. OK, this may not be the most fun item on the list, but it is useful and efficient – giving you hopefully more time and energy for other enjoyable activities!
16. Put your headphones on! Studies show that upbeat music can help you push through and go the extra mile. However, don’t forget to listen to your body’s warning signs when you hit your physical limits.
17. Go foraging. Look for edible plants you can safely (!) forage on your walks, like dandelions, nettles, hazelnuts or blackberries. It is strongly advised to upgrade your plant knowledge or walk with an experienced guide, because, as beautiful as they look, some mushrooms, berries and flowers can be poisonous!
18. Have a picnic in the park. Stroll through the park until you find a lovely spot to sit down and enjoy your sandwiches. This tip works well for people with lower energy levels, because you get time to rest from your walk before you get back to the car. If you happen to be pretty fit, get some extra activity in by playing frisbee or flying a kite.
19. Get seasonal. Go on a spooky Halloween walk or enjoy the Christmas lights as you walk through your neighborhood. You could also make your annual Easter egg hunt as active as you like.
20. Find a walking buddy. Instead of meeting for drinks, catch up during a gentle stroll. If your health allows, you can even join a walking group to mix exercising with socializing.
21. Visit a botanical garden, an outdoor museum or the zoo to keep your mind happily entertained while you get more steps in than you’d noticed.
22. Change up the time of day of your walks. Head outside first thing in the morning to see the sun rise, add some activity to your lunch break or walk in the darkness to admire the stars and neon lights (while minding your safety of course). Perhaps you’ll find a new routine you love!
23. Hike in nature. What’s nicer than a walk in the woods or get barefoot in the sand? Our weekends easily get filled with chores and social obligations, but once in a while, make time to go to the beach, national park or lake. Research shows that spending a weekend in the forest improves your immunity for up to 30 days (!) after your trip, so that’s worth the effort right?
24. Bring something to read. On sunny days when you’re low on energy, you could walk to a nearby bench to do some reading. You could bring a magazine, but ebooks obviously make an easy read. If you’re busy, you could also answer some less important emails outside, whatever works for your schedule. That way, you still get some much-needed movement and outdoor time in.
25. Embrace the weather. Of course dry and sunny days make the loveliest times for a walk. But don’t let a little rain or cold stop you from your daily walk. Get yourself a warm, waterproof coat you love, grab a colorful umbrella and go outside. Instead of complaining about the weather, kid up fall leaves, jump in puddles or bring a thermos with hot chocolate on your winter walk.
I’d love to know, how do you keep your daily walks fun and interesting?
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