The Walk Challenge – The Benefits of Walking

walk, walking, exercise, calories from walking, walking for exercise, walking stress, challenge, step challengeSpring is here. Finally we can escape the confines of our home and get back outside where we belong. After months of hibernation, we need to shake off some of the cobwebs and start moving. What better way to start then by taking a walk! It wasn’t too long ago (before all our times I’m sure), that if you wanted to get anywhere you walked.  Nowadays, many people (including myself), drive nearly everywhere  (embarrassingly enough, even to a mailbox a mere hundred yards away).  Furthermore, as many of us are chained to a desk, our chances to be active are slim… unless we change our habits!

The Walk Challenge – Get outside and walk for 20 minutes everyday for 30 days!

That’s it!!  Seems quite simple… but you may have some questions.

  1. But it’s raining out? – Wear a rain jacket or use an umbrella.  Rain can feel energizing!
  2. But it’s dark? – Bring a flashlight, go with somebody, stay off the roads.
  3. I don’t have time! – Yes you do…turn off the television.
  4. But I work all day! – Go on your lunch break, it’s why the challenge only twenty minutes.

One more rule – The walk NEEDS to be outside – sorry no treadmills.

I can keep going, but I think you get the point.  There will be a hundred reasons not to do something – the key is to do it anyway.

Still not convinced? 

The Benefits of Walking

Exercise – Probably the first thing to pop in your head.  A daily walk gets your heart pumping and body moving.  According to a person weighing 175 pounds will burn 105 calories per 20 minutes.

Social/Family Time – In a hectic lifestyle, taking a break to walk with your significant other or kids is a great time to talk about your day, while getting fresh air and exercise.

Alone Time – As much as I love walking with my wife and kids, I sometimes appreciate the alone time. I do some of my best thinking, be it personal problems or creative projects while on walks.

Travel – Yes, the actual reason we have legs to get from Point A to Point B. If the option is there for you use it – walk to the store or work.

This is more than just a walk!

What are we getting out of this? Exercise is an important element in this challenge, but it isn’t the only one.  I encourage you to keep a journal and explore how this small change is affecting your life. It takes time to notice any change, which is why I’m going to ask you to commit to the full 30 days. Here are some questions to ask yourself or observations to look for:

    1. How do you feel before the walk and after the walk?
    1. Do you look forward to the walk or look forward to it being completed?
    1. As the month progresses, are you going further, taking different routes?
  1. Have you experimented with your walk times?  Does a certain time of day make you feel better?  ie. In the morning to wake you up or after work to unwind.

Tips for a Successful Walk Challenge

Do it When You Wake Up – If you can, try walking first thing in the morning to get you started. Have everything ready the night before. It will be so easy to sleep in, but you’ve committed to the challenge so get up. If this is a problem try the 6AM Wake Up Challenge.

Things in life will pop up – Don’t be hard on yourself, but still try to get the time in. This may mean two ten minute walks during a busy day,  just keep making progress – no matter how small.

Go outside – Part of the goal of this is to get fresh air, so no treadmills! Which is why I included the rule. Walking on a treadmill while watching tv will provide different results than what we want. It’s not to say the other is wrong – just not what we are striving for here.  This site is about maximizing gains, which is why we are exercising while getting fresh air (the outdoors has a calming effect), plus gaining a little vitamin D.

Bonus Section

All I used for my walking challenge was a pair of shoes and a clock to ensure I did my twenty minutes. So assuming everyone has shoes, this challenge is free.  A new trend is the Quantitative Life – measurement means improvement! There are many gadgets and products available if you are looking to keep track of your steps. Again, these aren’t necessary, but they can add a layer of fun to the challenge if you’re into this type of thing.

  1. Pedometer – a simple old school device that counts your steps.
  2. Fitbit – a pedometer on steroids measuring everything from steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed, and the amount of minutes being active. My wife is a huge fan.
  3. Smart Phone Apps – rating these are beyond the scope of this article. From a quick search using “Pedometer Free” – I found a large number of free apps – some have extra features for a small price.

Feel free to use any of the above to “beef” up your challenge by counting steps instead of setting a twenty minute minimum time frame. That’s why these challenge are so great – you can tailor them specifically to your needs.

My Results of the 30 Day Walk Challenge

I’ve always enjoyed taking walks for all the benefits listed above, but often I never had the time. Focusing on this challenge made me accountable to making my walk a priority, and I’m glad I did. The challenge only calls for a 20 minute walk, but I found that once I started I usually went for much longer. I quickly came to look forward to my time walking. I tried taking my walks at different times of the day (either first thing in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening) and observed that my walk at lunch personally gave me the biggest reward. It gave a natural separation to my day, let me turn off my mind to recharge the thinking tank, and woke me up for the afternoon. Plus, as a writer I found I was usually deep in thought most of the walk and was at my creative best. The biggest result I found was an overall sense of calm after even a few days of walking I felt less stressed and more relaxed.

Each challenge on this website is designed to create a new positive habit, but also as a trial run. In the big scheme of things 30 days isn’t a long time, but long enough for you to see a result and ask yourself if this change is worth keeping. My experience with this challenge was positive and I’ll continue my daily walks.

How did The Walk Challenge work for you? I’d love to hear your results – Please comment below or join the conversation on Twitter at #KeysToOptimalLiving.