Although walking has been enjoyed as an activity for generations, it’s seen a resurgence of popularity as a low-impact, low-tech, effective way to exercise — increasingly critical as the world has plunged into epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
With very little time or expense, anyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of walking. Walking has been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke, improve you blood pressure and blood sugar levels, help you maintain or lose weight, improve your mood, and reduce the risk for diseases such as osteoporosis and certain cancers.
You can enjoy the health benefits of walking in just 30 minutes a day, and you don’t have to do it all at once. Breaking up the time into more manageable 10- or 15-minute bursts has been shown to be just as effective as doing it all at once, and all you really need is a good pair of shoes.
So walking is good for you. Not a new idea. And you buy into it — but you’re bored. Here are some ideas to help freshen things up and possibly deliver additional health benefits to your walking ritual.
Walk with a friend. Again, not a new idea, but if you’re teetering on the precipice of throwing in the towel, accountability to another person may provide the extra motivation you need to keep going. If you’ve been walking solo, inviting a friend could freshen up your routine in a way that will keep your interest. Consider inviting someone you don’t know that well, and discover all of the interesting things you have to talk about as you get to know each other on your walks. Sharing something you enjoy with another person can also provide mental health benefits.
Mix up your route. If you’ve dedicated yourself to the same route for a period of time, consider exploring another one. Websites and apps are available to help you discover new paths to your fitness goal. Maybe your new friend has some ideas. Exploring a new area and seeing fresh scenery can renew your interest. Come up with a few favorites and mix them up.
Add some intervals. Interval training is an effective way to add some intensity and extra calorie-burning potential to any exercise routine. The great thing is there really isn’t a “wrong” way to do it. Consider walking at your normal pace for 3 minutes and then jogging or all-out sprinting for 30 seconds. Go back to your normal pace to recover for 3 minutes and then sprint again for 30 seconds. Or come up with an interval that works for you. Whatever it is, adding bursts of high (or even moderate) intensity will deliver greater health benefits and add a new dimension to your routine.
Find a playground. If you can find a route that takes you by a playground stop and use it! Some parks even have stations placed along the walking path for push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, dips, and lunges. Take advantage of these features or come up with your own add-ons. You can easily do modified push-ups on the seat of a park bench. Adding some strength moves will make your routine more interesting and provide additional benefits to your walk.
Add some tech. There are a lot of apps available that will coach you through your workout, walking or otherwise. You can download these to your smartphone to tell you things like how many steps you’ve taken, number of calories burned, and how close you are to achieving your daily fitness goals. If you have a newer smartphone, some of these features may already be at your fingertips. Take some time to familiarize yourself with what they offer and how to use them. If you have a wearable fitness tracker, take advantage of the technology to help keep you motivated. Some come with a personal “coach” that will guide and motivate you through your workout.
Listen to some music — or nature. The right tunes can be a great motivator during a working out. You can take advantage of pre-selected workout mixes available with some apps, or put together your own playlist. Choose music with a beat that will keep you motivated and moving at a comfortable pace. Personally, I like the fact that the music obscures the sound of my own heavy breathing. I find that if I’m not focusing on being out of breath, I’m more motivated to keep going. On the other hand, if you always have music going, it might be fun and refreshing to just listen to the natural sounds around you, especially if your walk takes you somewhere in nature and out of earshot of traffic.
Listen to a book. Audio books are widely available from a number of sources. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase, but you might want to investigate whether you can check them out for free from your local library. I belong to a book club and struggle to find time to just sit and read. Listening to a good book while you are walking can keep you entertained and up to speed for your next book club meeting.
There are lots of ways to freshen up a walking routine gone stale. Use your imagination and get out there. Your quality of life may depend on it.
November 09, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN