The difference between consistently hitting your step goals and inconsistent walking results often comes down to a set of daily habits that promote walking. People who manage to walk every day and earn all of the great benefits of walking don’t have to consciously plan every walk from scratch. They know when to walk, what to wear, what to eat, and how to make their walks fun. When it’s time to walk, they just put on their shoes and take the first step.
Walking can be this automatic for you too! All it takes is incorporating the right walking habits to ensure that you stay motivated to hit your exercise goals. These 7 proven habits of successful fitness walkers will help ensure that you don’t miss a walk.
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Walk at the right time
Walking is a great form of cardio because you can do it anywhere, at almost any time. Experiment to see whether you get better results walking in the early morning or whether you prefer walking at night. Perhaps you do better taking short walks during your lunch break or in the middle of the day. Stick to the time that works best, and try to walk at that time every day.
- Morning: Taking even a 15-minute walk in the morning gives you energy for the whole day. It’s a great way to create productive walking time if you tend to get distracted during your normal free time. Work out an effective morning walking routine that makes morning walking as simple as you can make it.
- Lunchtime: A mid-afternoon stroll can help regulate your food intake while improving blood flow to the brain for that extra afternoon boost. Walking can improve your energy and creativity, making walking a great activity to do at work during your lunch break or during breaks throughout the day.
- Evening: If you’re really not a morning person, consider getting your walks done in the early evening. Walking after dinner is a great way to eat a bit less and aid your digestion. While you may be a bit tired from the day, your muscles should be warmed up and lung function is best in the evening. It’s also an ideal time to exercise all the stresses away from the day, leaving you more relaxed and happier.
Even if you’re fairly confident you know which is best for you, try changing up your routine and walking at a different time for a few days to see how you do. It may take a week or two to get used to the new schedule, but you may find that you actually get better results by walking at a time you thought you wouldn’t enjoy.
Walk in the right place
Some people naturally enjoy getting out and walking in nature, while others would rather walk indoors in a climate-controlled environment. Still others prefer to walk on a treadmill watching their favorite show on their phone. Successful walkers have a few go-to walking routines already mapped out that they can default to whenever they need to.
- Walking indoors: If the weather is bad, or if you simply enjoy walking indoors, choose an indoor walking location that’s easy to get to and spacious enough for serious walking. This can be your plan A or plan B depending on which you naturally enjoy more.
- Walking outdoors: Have one or two alternative walking routes other than your normal daily walking path. That way, if you have more or less time to walk you’ll know where to go. If you’re naturally an indoor walker, take advantage of those perfect walking days to get some fresh air.
- Treadmill or other: You don’t necessarily have to buy a treadmill, but if you can get access to one you’ll have a new way to get even more steps. Treadmills are also a safe and easy way to start a light jogging routine. You don’t need a treadmill to get steps at home – there are a variety of in-home cardio workouts you can do that will burn calories and boost your step count.
Try all of these options and you may find an interesting change of pace that you hadn’t thought of before.
Walk the right amount
The calories you burn walking and the benefits you’ll get depend on several factors: the frequency, duration, and intensity of your walks. As walking is less intense than other aerobic activities, it needs to be done more frequently to get the full health benefits. The American Heart Association standards indicate to get the ultimate benefits from walking; adults should take a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Increase that to an hour of walking a day to get even more benefits from walking.
If 30 minutes is difficult for you, start with the amount of walking that you can do and try to gradually increase it over time. Even small numbers of steps can lead to large benefits to your health. Trying to set a goal that you can’t reach (aiming for 10,000 steps per day as a beginner, for instance), will only hurt your motivation to walk. Set the right goal for you and gradually increase it once you can reliably hit it.
Everyone understands that you need more than just exercise to get in shape and experience the multitude of benefits that come with it. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the process, as well. However, most people find it hard to commit to both and decide to focus on either exercise or nutrition. What most individuals fail to recognize, however, is that changing their exercise habits AND their nutrition at the same time can give them extra motivation to do both.
Putting a lot of effort into walking more can motivate you to eat a bit healthier, as you don’t want all of that hard work to be undermined by your eating habits. Eating healthy helps your body feel better, giving you more energy and motivation to walk. It doesn’t require dramatic changes or fad diets to eat healthily. Simple swaps in both aspects can have incredible results. Try to incorporate a few of these healthy nutrition modifications to see the benefits add up over time.
- Incorporate more fruit and vegetables into each meal.
- Give up sodas and other sugary drinks.
- Be mindful of late-night snacking.
- Drink more water, especially before meals.
- Pay attention to portion and serving sizes
- Focus less on deny foods, and more on moderation
Dress right and prep right
The key to a great walking routine is the prep work before you start walking. Not only can it keep you injury-free, but it can ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable walk every time.
- Shoes: Having well-designed walking shoes can ensure that you have excellent shock absorbers that can limit the strain of walking on your feet, joints, and your knees. You can walk in running shoes in some cases, but try to at least walk in some type of athletic shoe that doesn’t hurt your feet.
- Clothing: The clothing needs to be suitable for the weather you are walking in. Make sure you wear a loose and breathable outfit for hot weather walking, or clothes that keep you warm and dry without making you overheat during winter walks. Finding the right clothes will ensure that you stay comfortable, no matter what setting you are in. For an extra incentive, prep the gear the night before to ensure that you have everything ready to get your workout in the next day.
- Warm-up/ Cool Down/ Stretch: Whether you are a pro or a novice walker, a warm-up and a cool-down/stretch should be incorporated into every walk or cardio exercise you take. This will make sure that your muscles are warmed up and ready to go, while also helping prevent any muscle strains or other exercise injuries.
Make Walking Exciting
One of the main excuses for quitting an exercise is feeling bored with your workouts. However, this doesn’t have to be the case for your walking routine. Changing things up and making your walks enjoyable will not only keep you excited to maintain your walking routine, but it will ensure that you stick with the workout for years to come.
- Try a 10% Rule: For a few weeks, try increasing your distance walks or steps taken by 10%. You can make this more or less depending your current circumstances. This will challenge you to increase up your intensity without overexerting yourself, which can lead to injuries. This method will also allow you to constantly switch up your goal, making for more motivating walks. Obviously, you’ll eventually hit a limit to how much you can walk, but this can be a fun goal over a short time period.
- Add Hills: If flat walks are becoming mundane, head for the hills! Incorporating inclines into your walk will increase the intensity of your walks, which will help you burn more calories. It will also make for a great change-up into your routine. You can take a few weeks to cut your walking time and increase the intensity regardless of your step counts. That can be a fun change of pace to your normal walking routine.
- Grab a Friend: Finding a walking buddy is a great way to make walking not only more challenging but a lot more enjoyable. Not only will you have a built-in accountability partner, but your walks will feel less like exercise and more like social hour. If you really have trouble finding a partner, consider getting into audiobooks or finding a good podcast to keep you company during your walks.
The Journal of Medical Internet Research found that walking just an extra 1,000 steps a day can help lower your BMI, as well as helping control blood sugar and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. All you need to take advantage of these benefits is to set some goals for yourself to help you get going. You can make this more interesting by setting monthly objectives and celebrating your wins with new workout gear, a healthy lunch date, or a self-care spa day. These celebrations can help motivate you to go farther and set new goals for yourself. You also don’t need to buy something to celebrate. When you hit a new step goal, take some time to feel great about your newfound success!
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Effectiveness of an Activity Tracker- and Internet-Based Adaptive Walking Program for Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. (2016). By Poirier J, Bennett WL, Jerome GJ, Shah NG, Lazo M, Yeh HC, Clark JM, Cobb NK. J Med Internet Res 2016;18(2):e34
American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. (2018). American Heart Association.
10 Healthy Habits of People Who Walk Every Day (2020). By Lauren Krouse. My Fitness Pal Blog.
Preparing for a Walk. (ND). Walking.Org.
Benefit to improving diet and exercise at the same time (2013). By Daniel DeNoon. Havard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School.
Walking: Your steps to health. (2018). Havard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School.
The Best Time of Day to Walk and Exercise (2020). By Wendy Bumgardner Medically reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD. Very Well Fit.
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