Walking is man’s best medicine. Hippocrates
Read part 1 for the story behind why I started walking more.
Walk more to jumpstart your journey towards improved health. Walking is a low impact way to exercise without triggering massive hunger cravings that often counteract the benefits of training. If you’re already exercising regularly, walk more on your off days to raise your metabolic level and loosen up your tissues. If you’re an office worker, walk every hour or two to avoid the risks of sitting all day.
Check out this eye-opening infographic from the Washington Post for a snapshot of those risks. Below is a short list of the benefits of walking more.
- Reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, cancers, obesity, diabetes
- Improve mental well being
- Maintain bodyweight
- Lower recovery time
You already know how to walk, but you want to walk more. How much is enough? Everyone who talks about walking more seems to have 10,000 steps as a goal. 10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles depending on your stride length. 10,000 steps is an excellent goal for many people, but if you don’t walk much right now that’s a big change. As mentioned in the J-Curve post, set a goal that’s so easy you can’t fail. 10,000 steps takes roughly 100 minutes. The average person in the US walks 5,000 steps per day (Reference #4). You’d need another 5,000 steps and 50 minutes to reach 10,000 steps. An easier goal would be to talk an extra 20 minutes, but start with 5-10 minutes extra the first week or two.
- If you’re new to exercise:
- Check your current daily steps on whatever app or device you can find.
- Set a goal of 1,000 – 5,000 more steps per day.
- Continue increasing 500-1000 steps weekly until you reach your goal.
- If you can’t track your steps, each week add 5 minutes more walking per day until you reach 15-20 minutes.
- If you’re already exercising regularly:
- Aim for 5,000 to 10,000 steps on your off days.
- If you can’t track your steps, aim for 2-4 more walking periods of 5-10 minutes each.
Here are a few triggers you can use to remind yourself to walk more. The cues are the key with this habit, since you’re already walking regularly. You need to think about what will trigger you to take an extra walk whether it’s a certain time of day or the cues below.
- When you exit a meeting
- Set a timer for 60-90 minutes
- When you park your car anywhere, park farther away than normal
- When you’re having a 1 on 1 meeting with someone open-minded
- After lunch or dinner
- When your dog stares at you
- While talking on the phone
- When you find a good park
When you increase your walking volume you may find you’re hungrier than normal. An easy reward is a snack, but be careful overeating. One of the biggest benefits of walking compared to other forms of exercise is that it doesn’t cause major stress to the body, which signals you to eat massively to aid repairing the damage from that stress (ex. lift heavy weights > break down muscles > eat lots of food and rest > muscles get stronger). That doesn’t mean you can’t have a snack, particularly if you add 30+ minutes of walking per day. The hunger signals may be very strong the first few times you walk longer distances. If you eat a high-calorie donut the first time as a reward you may be locked into donuts as a reward for a long time. Aim for something rewarding and healthy. My default reward snack is 1/2 banana and almond butter or high-fat yogurt.
Alternatively, use the walk as the reward. Stop. Smell the roses. Meditate in nature. Greet people on your walk. Revel at the landscape. Explore. Listen to music. Call a friend. Read a book…carefully. Pick some activity that you can incorporate into your walk that will make you crave walking more. Establishing a craving is a key to establishing any habit. Whatever reward you choose, you should figuratively salivate for it.
Complete four simple follow-ups:
- How much are you walking now and what’s your goal for walking more (steps/minutes)?
- How much more will you walk tomorrow (ex. goal / 4)?
- What cue will you use to remind yourself to walk more?
- What reward will you give yourself for walking more?
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. – Søren Kierkegaard
- Average Walking Miles Per Hour – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walking
- Steps to Time Conversion – https://www.pehp.org/mango/pdf/pehp/pdc/step%20conversion%20chart_FFB805BB.pdf
- Steps to Miles Conversion – http://www.thewalkingsite.com/10000steps.html
- Average Steps Per Day Study – https://www.verywell.com/whats-typical-for-average-daily-steps-3435736
- Note – This study tracked people wearing a pedometer for two days, so that may skew the results high. If someone was tracking your steps for two days, you might walk more.
- Bonus Tip – Tell a friend or your social network your walking/steps goal and send them updates daily. You can use this Fitbit/Facebook automated social network updates link and you might find similar tools for other networks and devices.