Walking is excellent exercise. Not only does it have many physical benefits but it can also contribute positively to your psychological state.
Although we can’t deny that walking is not the most exciting way to exercise. If you walk with a friend, it may be more fun as you can catch up and motivate each other. But if you walk alone, it can become tedious and boring.
To prevent boredom and help you make the most of your lone walks, we’ve listed 10 things to do while walking to keep it interesting and fresh every time.
But first, why walk?
Walking has a multitude of benefits, both physical and mental. Here are some of the benefits you can experience when you walk regularly.
Walking is the ideal exercise for beginners. It’s low-impact, it’s easy, requires no lessons, no complicated gear, and almost anyone can do it.
Walking is also a weight-bearing exercise. These kinds of exercises strengthen muscle—which acts as a support for the bones—as well as preventing bone density from diminishing. This is especially important for women and can prevent osteoarthritis and osteoporosis as you get older.
Regular walking—especially at a moderate to intense pace for a lengthened period of time—can improve your cardiovascular health. This lowers the chances of cardiovascular disease, as well as other diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Don’t underestimate the power of walking for weight loss. It’s an excellent place for you to start if you aren’t yet fit enough to run.
Be aware that for walking to have a significant effect on your weight, you will need to be consistent and also pay attention to your nutrition.
It may be wise to invest in a fitness tracker and monitor your food intake—specifically, how many calories you are taking in each day.
Walking can help you to lose weight, but you’ll see the best results if you take extra care with your food as well.
Walking is also an excellent way to relieve stress. It improves circulation and also causes endorphins to be released in the brain, which promotes relaxation, both physically and mentally.
This relaxation can help to reduce aches and pains associated with stress, which in turn can lower stress levels.
There is evidence to suggest that a large part of the stress relief associated with walking has to do with mindfulness. This means intentionally focusing on the movement of the body or the beauty of nature while walking, instead of simply going through the motions.
Get Out in Nature
Walking on a treadmill has some of the same benefits as walking outdoors. But walking in nature has been shown to have more benefits than indoor walking or walking in a city setting.
Research indicates that spending time in nature lowers cortisol levels, leading to improved moods.
What Do I Need on Walks?
You can simply put on your running shoes and walk out the door. But to make the most of your walk, there are a few things you should consider before just going out to walk.
The most important thing is a good pair of walking shoes. Your shoes should support your feet properly. If you overpronate—your arch falls inward when you walk—you will need to invest in a pair of stability shoes.
Walkers with a neutral gait or who underpronate—the feet roll outwards on each step—should use a neutral shoe.
You will also need to decide what level of cushioning you prefer. Cushioning absorbs shock, which can help to keep the joints safer and healthier. Even though walking is low-impact, choosing the wrong shoes can lead to pain, inflammation, and injury.
You will also need to choose the right clothing for the weather at the time. If you live in a warm place, you will need to buy clothing that’s lightweight, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying. This will keep you cool, dry, and more comfortable when walking.
If you live in a cold place, you may want to purchase a light jacket, a neck gaiter, beanie, or balaclava. You also may want to choose warm socks and gloves to keep you from feeling cold on the walk.
You may choose to use a smartwatch to track your data, like time, distance, and speed. Some allow you to listen to music while walking. If you don’t have a smartwatch or fitness tracker, you may choose to take your smartphone along on the walk.
Ways to Make Walks More Fun and Interesting
Walking can become boring, especially if you do it often. The best way to reduce this boredom is to walk with a friend. That way, you can talk about topics that interest both of you on the walk or motivate each other if you’re feeling tired or bored.
If you walk alone, you can try changing pace. You can do something like intervals, where you walk fast for one minute and slowly for one minute, throughout your whole walk. Or you can set a time goal and try to reach it by picking up your pace.
You can also increase your distance if you want more of a challenge. Try not to increase too fast. 5 percent per week is ideal. This can give you a tangible goal to work towards every time you walk.
A change of scenery can also be motivating. Change your route regularly so you can see new things. If you often walk through an urban area, it’s also a good idea to try and find a park or trail where you can walk through nature instead.
If you find music motivating, you can listen to a playlist while you’re walking. Make sure that you can still hear what’s going on around you, as you need to be aware of traffic and other hazards. Bone conduction headphones are an excellent choice if you want high-quality sound but still need to hear the world around you.
10 Great Things to Do While Walking
If you need something more to take your walks from boring to fun, then try some of these ideas next time you’re out on your walk.
1. Compliment Others
Unless you walk very early in the morning or very late at night, you are likely to come across other people along your route.
You can spread some kindness by offering each person a compliment when you pass them instead of simply greeting them.
As you approach someone, consider something positive to say to them. It doesn’t have to be specific. You can simply say something like “I like your shirt”, or “Your dog is very cute.”
You may be surprised at how much this can improve your own mood as well as other people’s.
Try to compliment at least one person on every walk, and you will soon find that seeking out the positive in others becomes more of a habit.
2. Raise Money for Charity
If you want to do some more tangible good when walking, you can download the app called Charity Miles. On this app, you can select a charity to walk for.
Every mile that you walk earns a certain amount for your selected charity. You can get sponsored by friends and family, but even if you don’t there are corporate businesses that will donate to charities for every one of your miles.
You can track miles on your daily walks or even if you’re walking through the supermarket doing your shopping.
3. Walk and Dine
If you are planning an evening out, why not incorporate your exercise into it? This can be a fun thing to plan as well as to do. Your aim is to walk between each course.
Start with an appetizer or drinks at a particular place. Once you’re finished, walk to another nearby restaurant for your main course. If you want to, you can choose restaurants a little further apart for more exercise.
After the main course, walk to another place for dessert. End off the evening by walking to the last restaurant for coffee.
If you want to get more exercise done and increase your fitness, you can do extra exercises while walking. You can choose to walk on more technical terrain, which will challenge the muscles in a different way.
You can also choose to add exercises during your walk. For example, walk for a certain distance and time and then pause and do some bodyweight exercises or yoga poses.
You can always take your dog with you and throw a ball or frisbee for them while you’re walking.
If you have strong joints and don’t suffer from joint problems, you can try incorporating plyometrics—jump exercises—into your routine.
5. Discover a New Place
To keep your walks interesting, you can try a route you’ve never walked before. Make sure these are well-traveled routes and that they’re safe to walk.
You can try to walk from one landmark to another and see the sights along the way. If you’re out in nature and don’t have specific landmarks, choose something pretty and eye-catching, like a waterfall.
This is also an excellent idea if you are on vacation or away for business. Instead of not walking while you’re away, explore the new area.
6. Run Errands
If you want to get two things done at once, you can run errands while you’re walking. If you need to go to the store, bank, or other places and they’re within walking distance, why not walk there and back?
Not only will it be great exercise—remember to take a backpack or other bag to carry groceries—but it ends up saving you money on fuel and wear and tear on your car.
7. Take Photos
If you enjoy finding beauty around you, take your camera or a smartphone on your walks and find interesting things to photograph. This could be a way to improve your photography skills while getting fit and healthy at the same time.
To stop this from also getting boring, you can give yourself unique challenges for every walk. One day you could find an animal to photograph, and the next day you could be searching for something the color turquoise.
8. Do a Scavenger Hunt
This requires some preparation, but it’s a lot of fun. You can involve someone else or do it all yourself.
Either you or someone else will need to write a list of things to search for on your walk. These could be small items like a green leaf, a stone, or a crumpled piece of paper. Some items could be bigger, like a pink shirt or a curvy tree.
You can collect small items along the way if you wish, or to make it easier—and increase the range of items you can name on the list—you can just take a photo of every item you find.
9. Learn Something New
Walking is the ideal time for learning. Your body is busy, but your brain is free to a degree. You can use the time to study for tests or learn a new language.
Download audiobooks or podcasts to your phone to listen while you’re walking. If you download audio courses, you can also study these as you’re walking and learn something new.
10. Clean Up
If your neighborhood could do with some cleaning up, take a plastic bag with you on your walk and collect trash that’s lying around.
Not only will you be tidying up your neighborhood and making it prettier, but you’ll also be burning more calories as you bend to pick up litter.
This is ideal to do as a team-building exercise or with friends or family. The more people involved, the more fun. But also, the larger area you’re able to cover.
If you enjoy walking new routes, you can always keep a plastic bag with you—in a backpack or pocket—and clean up wherever you see it’s necessary.