One of the easiest ways to instill healthy habits and motivate yourself to be more active is to get outside and walk. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what time of year it is, or what shape you are currently in, there is (almost) no reason not to start a walking fitness routine and make yourself a priority. Walking is not difficult, doesn’t cost a lot of money, and has so many health benefits. But, the first step is the hardest, so let’s kick ass! Need some help getting started? Here is my no-nonsense guide to 40 Kickass Walking Tips to Get Fit, based on my personal trials and tribulations with walking.
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Why bother walking, you ask? Walking as exercise has so many positive benefits. It is a free activity and does not take a lot of time, even 15 minutes a day can make a big difference. Walking is not damaging for healthy muscles and joints (as long as you wear the right kind of shoes), is not too strenuous, and can be done inside or outside. It does not matter if you live in the city or the country, there are plenty of opportunities to walk during every season of the year.
Walking has become a way of life for me now.
As you increase your endurance through walking, you may find that you want to do other exercise activities, such as running, hiking, or dance, which is awesome, but if you can just walk too. According to many health and nutrition sources, walking has many great health benefits. Walking can:
- Burn Calories: Did you know that for approximately every 2000 steps you take, you burn approximately 100-150 calories? A 30-minute walk a day can use about 5000 steps or 300 calories burned. The faster or more strenuous the walk, the more you burn. I have been known to burn 900 calories in a 90-minute walk!
- Lower Blood Sugar: Even a moderate amount of walking, particularly after meals, can help lower blood sugar.
- Lower High Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that walking caused a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In fact, according to the Arthritis Association, walking has been proven to decrease blood pressure in postmenopausal women.
- Increase Muscle Mass & Tone Body: Walking helps to increase muscle mass and tone your body, which can help burn even more calories and trim inches off. (A note about this later)
- Improve Blood Circulation: Walking increases your heart rate, which gets the heart pumping more. Better circulation can help with arthritis, joint pain, and heart health.
- Decrease Anxiety & Boost Mood: It has been found that people who walk at least 10 minutes every day, particularly in natural settings, alleviate anxiety and help boost their mood. Walking also releases endorphins into your brain. I know that for me personally, walking is my time for myself. Sometimes I listen to new age music and sometimes I just enjoy the beautiful day or night around me. I’ve found that I am less grumpy the days I walk.
- Increases Creativity: In a study at Stanford University, researchers found that walking can boost creativity up to 60% and has been found to improve memory.
- Other Benefits: Walking has also been found to help with insomnia, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, and strengthen your muscles.
Now that you know the reasons for walking, how about a few easy tips to get in more walking steps each day?
A year ago I could not even walk around my block. I was 79 pounds heavier, had major joint pain (I have lupus), and had no incentive to walk or be healthy. I had a million excuses not to exercise. I was not motivated at all. I whined about my weight but was perfectly happy to sit home. Then something happened. A health scare in July 2019 threw my whole world into a tizzy. It was a huge wakeup call for me. I had a decision to make. Keep living life the way I had been and risk my health and future, or make changes and be healthier. This experience changed my whole mentality and as part of several healthy lifestyle changes, I started to walk.
Now I wonder why I did not start sooner.
I started off slowly, only doing about 15 minutes a day around my neighborhood. Then in September, I spent most of my days sitting in a hospital chair while my father was in the hospital. Since I already started my journey to better health, I was determined not to let my dad’s hospital stay be a setback for my own health, so when I would go to the hospital each morning, I parked in a far off parking garage to add steps on my walk to his hospital room. I took laps around the hospital throughout the day to keep my joints from aching from sitting too long. At first, I only did about 2,000 steps a day, but while he was in the hospital, I increased my steps to about 7,500. When I came home, my steps dropped back down to about 2,500 and I had to work to steadily increase them.
By February, I lost about 45 pounds and was walking about 8,000 steps a day. Then COVID hit. Walking became a way for me to escape the craziness of the news and safely social distance from others. By April, I increased my steps to approximately 10K. By August, I had increased my steps to about 14-15K. On a good day, I can walk six miles. Below is a screenshot from my FitBit from a week of walking about 101,000 steps.
Walking has become a way of life for me, there is almost not a day that goes by when I do not go for a 45-60 minute walk. I know I am doing this for my health and wellbeing and enjoy taking care of myself in this way. Even a 30-minute walk each day clears my mind, calms my nerves, and helps me focus. If I cheat a little with eating during the day, I know more steps will take off those calories. It should be noted that walking alone did not help me achieve my goals, but it is a huge factor in my fitness success. I am not being overdramatic when I say that walking literally saved my life.
- I’ve lost 79 pounds and counting…
- My blood pressure is back to a normal range.
- My cholesterol levels are back to a normal range.
- My previously fatty liver has shrunk to normal size.
- My sugar levels are normal.
- My heart rate is now considered in the “athletic” range.
- I have built muscle and lost fat.
- I feel like a warrior queen.
I still have a long way to go to get healthier, but walking is an important tool to help me achieve my goals!
How to Track Your Steps
The easiest way to track your steps is with the help of a digital health and fitness tracker such as a FitBit. You can also use the Health app on your iPhone, although you must have your iPhone on your body at all times to track the steps. I used to use the Health app on my phone but received a FitBit for Christmas. I love the FitBit because it not only tracks every step I take the moment I get out of bed until I go to bed at night, it also tracks my sleep cycle, how many calories a day I burn each day, and more! I can also join challenges with other FitBit users as an incentive to keep walking.
The days I make time for walking (aka time for myself) are the days I know I am getting stronger and more powerful.
40 Kickass Walking Tips to Get Fit
- Talk to your doctor before starting any walking or exercise routine.
- Get yourself a Fitbit or other step tracker to track your steps, or use the Health app on your mobile phone.
- Even when you are busy, make walking a priority by setting a goal to walk every day or at least 4-5 days a week.
- Create a song list to play while you walk, either something relaxing or something to get you moving. Use wireless earbuds to listen to music so you don’t have to worry about cords catching. I love my Amazon Music membership because I can download whatever songs I want to my phone to listen to while walking. AirPods are great if you have the money, but I use these earbuds, $200 less expensive.
- If you want to get your heart rate up, aim for songs with a lively beat. This is the best guide I’ve found to tailor your walking program to a playlist. A good rule of thumb is for the first few songs to increase in beat to get your heart rate up, then several songs that will help you maintain or fluctuate your heart rate within the fat burning or cardio range, then a few slower songs at the end to cool down.
- Park your car far from stores, doctor’s offices, and businesses, and walk. Better yet, leave your car at home and walk to the store. Don’t forget your mask!
- Limit using grocery delivery services and walk around the grocery store yourself. Note: During COVID this is much harder to do but get yourself a great mask like the masks my friend Ciaran makes.
- At home, while doing laundry, take individual piles to the wash and back, making several trips instead of taking all the laundry at once.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Can’t get outside? Do a few laps around your house or up and down the stairs.
- When outdoors, mix up your routine with different paths. Don’t forget to add some incline/hills to increase your endurance.
- Don’t walk just once a day. Get out in the morning, on your lunch break for a 10-minute walk, and at night to de-stress from a busy day.
- Find a walking buddy to motivate you or join a Facebook group such as our Healthy Living group to get motivation from others.
- While on the telephone, pace around your kitchen or hallways.
- While walking, pick up your knees, and swing your arms. Get your body moving and you will burn more calories. Don’t worry what the neighbors think, you will lose so much weight, they won’t recognize you anyway!
- Walk your dog every day or if you don’t own a dog, ask an elderly or disabled neighbor if you can walk their dog for them. Both the dog and your neighbor will love you for it.
- Scope out interesting nature walking trails near your house and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
- Visit a local botanical garden, museum, or art gallery and educate yourself while you walk.
- Get yourself a reliable pair of walking/running shoes. If you get shoes too small, your feet will feel cramped and you will get black toenails. If your shoes are too big, your feet will slip and you will get blisters.
- Invest in a few pairs of anti-blister socks to prevent blisters (which will happen if you walk more than 3 miles a day.)
- Do not use baby powder or lotion on your feet before you walk. It is an old wive’s tale to use baby powder or gasoline, they can actually cause your feet to slip more inside your shoes, forming a blister.
- Even with the best socks and shoes, you may still get blisters. Keep the blister clean, use blister pads, and/or stay off your feet for a day or two to let the blister heal. I was off my feet two days last week because I thought I could push through the pain of a blister but I made it worse by walking on it while it was still raw.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Get yourself a water bottle that is lightweight, easy to carry, and can be put in the fridge or freezer. It is especially important to drink more during warmer weather as you will expel fluids through breathing and sweat.
- Speaking of sweat, prepare to sweat…a lot. I never liked to get sweaty before but now I know that I am not working hard enough unless I sweat. I usually break a sweat 2-3 times during a 90-minute walk.
- Many think the key to walking is taking longer strides, but that is not necessarily true. I have found that I burn more fat and increase my heart rate with short, quick steps similar to marching. A good disco or girl power song can help you get quicken your steps. If your heart rate is rising too slow to move into your fat burning or cardio zone, increase your steps to a fast jog for about 2-3 minutes, then move back to a fast trot.
- Each time you walk, push yourself farther. Even if it is just 2-3 minutes or 500 steps a day more. Strive to challenge yourself. You can be your own worst enemy or your greatest inspiration, your choice.
- While you should strive to do more, do not push yourself too hard. If you have severe leg or foot pain hours after walking, you are doing too much. Do not injure yourself in your quest to be healthier.
- If you walk at night, please use a device so others can see you. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed someone almost get hit by a car or bicycle because the other person could not see them in the dark. I use these armband lights anytime I walk at night. (Fun fact, my son also uses these but we do not walk/run together, so sometimes we are able to see each other from 1/2 mile away when we cross paths.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. I wear tank tops and yoga capris. In the winter months I wear layers I can remove as I get warmer.
- If you walk in the wintertime, bring a scarf and mittens. You may need to use the scarf as a mouth covering as walking in frigid temperatures can hurt your lungs. Also, know that walking in colder temperatures uses more energy as your body fights to stay warm. Don’t overdo it in cold weather or risk hypothermia.
- I have long hair but while walking, the hair can get into my face. I use these special headbands to keep the hair and sweat off my face and neck. Most headbands do not stay secure, but these headbands have an elastic band running through the middle of it to hold the headband in place.
Walking has given me the mental and physical strength to believe in myself and has given me the confidence to try new things.
The Get Real, No-Nonsense Part of My Talk
- The most important thing to know about walking is that any walking you do, particularly 20 minutes or more, is better than no walking. You are your own worst enemy and will find any excuse not to walk. Ignore that little voice in your head, you are worth it.
- Walking is not going to be easy some days. It is easy to stay home on the couch, binge-watching your favorite show; it is much harder to force yourself to get up, put on your walking shoes, and get out the door. Some days you absolutely have to push yourself. Remember above when I mentioned that walking makes me feel like a warrior queen? I meant it. Walking has become so much a part of my life that four days after gallbladder surgery, I was out walking (with the approval of my surgeon). I completed a three-mile walk that day. The days I make time for walking (aka time for myself) are the days I know I am getting stronger and more powerful.
- Don’t expect to lose vast amounts of weight overnight. As you burn fat, you are gaining muscle, so the weight loss will be slow but permanent.
- When I say kickass, I mean it. Walking will help you feel younger, mentally, and physically. It is 1000% true. I might be 53, but I am no longer letting that number dictate what I can and cannot do. Walking has given me the mental and physical strength to believe in myself and has given me the confidence to try new things.
- From my personal experience, the first fifteen minutes of walking is the hardest part, especially if you are pushing yourself. Once I push myself to that 15-20 minute mark (usually when I break into a full sweat) I am able to easily do another 15, then another. If you can do 15 minutes of walking, you can do 30. If you can do 30 minutes, you can do 45.
- Monitor your heart rate. This is why a good fitness tracker is so important. You want to be in the fat burner and/or cardio zone on your FitBit. Here is a great guide to finding your maximum heart rate.
- After a hard walk, your legs and butt are going to hurt. Do not get into a cold pool or shower immediately after walking because you will “freeze-up” your muscles. Spend 10-15 minutes cooling down after your walk, then take a hot shower. Please trust me on this. One night I went walking in 106-degree heat for 80 minutes, then hopped into our backyard pool fully clothed to cool off when I got home. I paid for it dearly later that night when I could not sleep because my muscles were so tight. I know better now and listen to a quick podcast to cool down before I come into the house.
- I live in Arizona, so walking outside during the day in the summer is difficult, so I walk in the evening when it is cooler. During the spring, fall, and winter, I enjoy getting outside at dusk to listen to the birds and watch the beautiful southwest sunsets, even if some days are a bit chilly. Fresh air is great for your lungs but if you live in a city with lots of air pollution, try to stay indoors.
- I will share more in a separate post, but be sure you are eating healthy. It sounds trivial but eating healthy can be difficult sometimes. Bottom line: If you are eating crap, you are not going to have the energy to walk. I usually do my long walk after dinner, but make certain to have plenty of fresh greens and healthy fats on my plate before I step outside.
Do you have any questions about these walking tips? Any tips to share about your own walking journey? Good luck and please let me know how it goes for you!