Put More Pep in Your Step and Improve Overall Wellness with These Tips for Making Your Daily Stroll More Enjoyable
Walking has numerous health benefits. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, adding intentional walking to your regular routine is one of the easiest ways to nix a sedentary lifestyle, going for lunchtime strolls is a proven creativity booster, and making time for even a short, 25-minute walk every day can add years to your lifespan.
With all that in mind, if you’re lacking the inspiration to get up and wander about, here are some tips for boosting walking’s enjoyment factor.
Challenge Yourself to Hit All Your City’s Scenic Routes
Walking in nature has a number of health benefits, including a potential for improving mental health. As summed up in a 2015 New York Times article, results from a study that looked at mental health after walking along a highway versus walking through a park-like setting pointed to nature as a soothing force in people’s lives: Study participants that walked along the highway showed no mental health improvements, but “the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health...They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.”
If you live in an urban area, it may sometimes feel like you’re surrounded by nothing but concrete jungle. Still, most cities have numerous parks and green spaces within their limits. Make it your mission this year to seek out each of these serene spots in your own city, and wander through them to your heart’s content.
If you’re a live-in-the-moment type of person, you’ll probably get enough pleasure simply from breathing in the fresh air. If you thrive on social interaction—and enjoy the accountability that comes from sharing health goals and achievements online—snap photos of the scenery around you and keep your social media followers updated with highlights from your challenge.
Gather a Group to Participate in a Scavenger Hunt
If you like team activities and are a mission-oriented person, consider getting a group of friends or colleagues together to go on a scavenger hunt within your city. Companies like Scavengerhunt.com and The Go Game offer fun and interactive preplanned hunts and games that let you compete against each other, discovering clues and answering questions about landmarks in your city as you quest. While completing each task, you’ll be dashing around several city blocks and having so much fun it won’t even feel like exercise.
Play Local Tourist and Complete a Walking Tour
If you’re not one for competition and are looking for solo adventures or an activity to share with a friend or two, seek out a walking tour within your city or town. Many cities have walking tours that are not only fun and educational, they’re absolutely free (although, if you enjoy yourself during the tour, make sure to leave a gratuity for your tour guide). You may feel like a bit of a tourist, but if you’ve never experienced a walking tour of your own city before, you may be surprised by how much you learn.
Alternatively, search for downloadable self-guided walking tours on Google or Bing, or consider coming up with a walking tour of your own: Research local landmarks and devise a list of “to-see” items in your city that are located within a few blocks of one another. Then, head to that area and check out the landmarks in person. You may find you have a new sense of appreciation for what your city has to offer after learning more about its monuments and noteworthy features.
Try Foraging on Your Walks or Hikes
In a recent post on boomer-friendly physical activities, we brought up the subject of bird watching and how it’s an excellent activity to add to daily walks to make them feel more like treasure hunts.
Similarly, you may want to try out foraging. Not only can this kind of activity inspire you to hit the trails more often, you’ll also get the satisfaction of providing food for yourself in the most old-fashioned way possible.
There are a number of resources online that can help you discover all the “wild” produce available in your area, including Fallingfruit.org, which has a map-based list of the different fruit varieties found in urban settings across the United States.
Of course, if foraging is an activity you’re new to, it’s a good idea to join a local group and learn about foraging from established masters before branching out on your own (we all know you should never eat something if you’re not 100 percent sure it’s safe, right?). Try searching the database over at Meetup.com to see if there’s a local foraging group in your community or just Google foraging groups in and around where you live.
Turn up the Tunes or Turn on the Television
If you have access to a treadmill, adding music to your walking time can help make each session feel more enjoyable and, in turn, make you more likely to get in your daily dose of exercise. As we pointed out in a recent post (Four Ways to Enjoy Music and Boost Your Brain Power), “music can have a powerful impact on mood during a workout” in addition to amplifying the brain-boosting benefits you receive from any physical activity.
If music alone isn’t enough to liven up your walk, consider saving your guilty-pleasure television shows for jaunts on the treadmill. As we noted in our recent post on burning off holiday weight gain, putting on a TV show that you can easily get lost in will help distract from what may otherwise feel like a boring activity—it will also make the time fly.
Still not inspired? Try listening to some podcasts during treadmill time.
Note: It probably goes without saying, but as a caution, we don’t recommend listening to music or watching things on your smartphone when walking outdoors, especially in areas where traffic may be a concern. Prioritize safety by ensuring that your senses are fully attuned to the environment around you (ie, no headphones!) so that you don’t miss any approaching cars or fail to hear any bicycles coming up on the path behind you.
Walk with a Furry Friend
Owning a dog is a great way to guarantee you’ll get out of the house every day and go for a stroll—the dog can’t walk itself, after all. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, dog owners are “2.5 times more likely to have achieved recommended levels of [physical activity]” than non-dog owners.
But even if you’re not a pet owner, technology is making it easier than ever to find a furry friend to take for a walk—and you can even get paid to do so. Apps like Wag and Rover enable you to hire yourself out as a dog walker for owners in need (they’re like Uber—but for dog care).
If you’re willing to share the love without receiving any compensation, contact your local humane society—most animal shelters are in need of volunteers to help exercise their pups.
Gamify Your Walk
In the summer of 2016, Niantic released a smartphone app called “Pokemon GO.” Even if you didn’t participate in the craze then, you can probably recall the hordes of people running down city streets during that time, shouting out words like “Charizard” and “Squirtle” and getting ridiculously excited about taking control of “gyms.” (And you probably thought they looked completely ridiculous).
The thing is, there’s a reason this game was (and continues to be) so successful—it took an otherwise banal activity (walking), and turned it into an adventure (like bird watching or scavenger hunting for fantasy lovers). The game itself also houses a number of health-friendly features that inspire its players to get out and collect Pokemon on the regular: Some features can only be activated by walking a certain number of steps, different geographical spaces are home to different types of creatures, and bonus points can be earned by checking into different landmarks in your area. It’s no wonder that a number of users cite Pokemon GO as a critical component in their personal weight loss journeys.
If chasing Pokemon isn’t your thing but you’re intrigued by the idea of making your daily dose of exercise more game-like, check out this article from Verywellfit.com for additional app suggestions that “gamify” walking and other fitness activities. (Again, please pay attention to your surroundings if you opt to gamify your walk—keep your head up and eyes on the road, stepping aside to let others pass if there’s any activity that demands even a fraction of your attention.)
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