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Walking: Is It Really so Good For You?
It doesn’t take an exercise guru to know that walking more in our daily lives is something that can greatly improve your overall health and wellness. It’s an easy task that has little risk of injury and gets your body moving in all the right ways. Besides that, the mental health benefits of moving around and getting some fresh air are more than worth the effort. But when it takes so much time out of your day, is it really something you need to prioritize? Absolutely! Not only is it an effective way to improve your physical and mental health, but it also doesn’t have to take up much more time in your day, especially if you find creative ways to incorporate more walking and movement into activities you already do every day.
What are the Physical Benefits of Walking?
Studies have consistently found many clear benefits of walking and here are some of the main advantages:
- It’s easy on the body, so those who are prone to injury have less to worry about
- It strengthens your heart and lungs
- It improves your body’s ability to manage certain health conditions. Some of these conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint pain, and diabetes
- It increases muscle strength and overall endurance
- It reduces body fat (which is great for helping you lose weight)
What are the Mental Benefits of Walking?
If this wasn’t enough for you, studies have also shown that walking offers great mental health benefits, as well! Here are some of the main benefits walking has for your mental health:
- It increases your overall creativity
- It boosts your mood, especially if you’re walking in nature
- It improves your memory by increasing your cognitive ability
- It helps to relieve anxiety and depression
How Can I Make Time for Walking in My Busy Schedule?
It’s clear from these studies that walking is certainly a worthwhile endeavour but if you’ve got a tight schedule that’s already filled to the brim with tasks and to-dos, how exactly can you be expected to make walking more of a priority?
The nice thing about walking is that it doesn’t necessarily have to happen all at once. In fact, it doesn’t even need to happen outside if you can’t make that work! There are lots of small changes that you can make to your daily routine to walk more without sacrificing your time on other things.
9 Habits to Introduce into Your Daily Routine to Walk More Without Spending More Time on Exercise
Habit #1: Swap Your Coffee Dates for Walking Dates
Instead of grabbing coffee with a friend and sitting down at a cafe while you chat, consider going outside and taking a stroll with your coffee. Not only is this an easy way to fit in more movement but it is also likely to get you and your friend to have a better conversation. A new form of therapy called “Walk and Talk Therapy” helps you open up more easily by walking and talking with a therapist instead of sitting in a room and talking together. Though your friend’s likely not a therapist, it may still make you feel more comfortable talking to each other!
Habit #2: Do a short period of light cleaning every day
This is a great habit to get into because you will end up with a healthier body and a cleaner home all at once! Every day, simply set aside 10-15 minutes to do some active cleaning. Here are some cleaning tasks that include a good amount of walking:
- Yard work and gardening
- Sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming the floors
- Putting away loose items around your home
- Wiping down counters around your home
- Dusting every room of the house
Habit #3: Use your legs before using any other transportation
Try to walk more in your day by opting out of cars, buses and bikes when you can. If you need to grab something quickly at the store, choose a store that you can walk to. Not only will you get more walking into your daily routine, but you will also save money on gas!
Another option that is small and takes a little less time is to continue to use your car but simply park it a little further away than you normally do. It may not fit in as much walking as forgoing the car entirely, but it will still give you a few extra steps in your day!
Habit #4: Take your dog for a walk instead of just letting it run around in the backyard
Dogs are great companions but they’re also amazing for ensuring that you spend a little bit of time walking outside every day. If you have a dog and you normally just let them run around in your backyard to get some exercise, consider actually taking them out for a walk. It’s a great way to bond with your canine friend, get some fresh air, and walk more.
If you don’t have a dog, you don’t need to go out and buy one. Instead, offer to take someone else’s dog for a walk. Perhaps you have a friend or an elderly neighbour who might appreciate the help!
Habit #5: Make things a little more inconvenient in your daily routine
This is one of the best habits to try if you want to make the fewest changes to your daily routine. All you need to do is make smaller aspects of your life just a little bit more inconvenient. Oftentimes, convenience isn’t actually faster, it’s just lazier. It takes less effort but just about the same amount of time.
Take drive-thrus, for example. In my own life, it has always been faster to quickly park the car and go into a restaurant to make my order than it is to wait in the long drive-thru line. Though it is more comfortable to wait in my car, it is both healthier and faster to go in physically.
The same is true for many other things in life. Try to look out for the things in your life that you have just for comfort and try to make the swap to walking more, instead. Here are some more ideas of easy switches you can make:
- Don’t keep all of your office supplies conveniently within reach. Put them in places that will force you to walk to get them so that you are moving around more at work
- Save your money and opt out of delivery services. Go and get the food yourself for a little extra movement
- When you bring your groceries into the house, take them one bag at a time instead of piling them all into your arms at once. The multiple trips will fit in extra steps and will save your back from too much weight carried at once
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can. It won’t take much extra time if it’s just a few floors
Habit #6: Drink more water
This is a weird trick but it works well! Whenever you go on a long flight somewhere, it is recommended that you drink lots of water. It keeps you hydrated and gives you a reason to get up and walk to the bathroom regularly. This works outside of planes, too. Drink more water so that you have to get up often for bathroom breaks. The water and the walks will do you good!
Habit #7: Set a walking time that’s triggered by a particular routine in your day
Another great way to walk more is to set aside 10 minutes before or after a particular event that happens every single day. Meals are a great reminder to walk because they happen predictably every day and because walking after a meal is good for your digestion.
Habit #8: Keep track of your steps so you’re aware of walking more
Most phones have apps and programs now that will count your steps throughout the day. It’s a great way to make you aware of just how many steps you are taking and to monitor any changes.
Additionally, you can use that data to make a game out of it! If you are playing on your own, you could try to get a higher step count each day until you hit your goal. If you are playing with a friend, you could both try to beat each other’s step counts.
Habit #9: Take little opportunities to pace
You don’t have to go on long, outdoor walks to fit in more steps each day. Sometimes it’s the pacing that will get you moving more. Whenever you have a moment in your day where you’re just sitting or standing still, pace around the room instead. It’s amazing how many more steps you will get just from this one habit!
Here are some common times in a day when you can pace:
- During tv commercials
- During phone calls
- Waiting at a doctor’s office
- Waiting for food to heat in the microwave
- Brushing your teeth
Walking more may seem like a bit of a daunting task at first but when you take a look at your daily routine, you will be able to find little moments in your day where you can easily fit in some extra steps. Improve your mental and physical health by incorporating some of these daily habits into your routine today!