Every morning my alarm goes off at 5:45am, I get up, get dressed, and set out for my daily walk. Rain, sleet, -25 degree Boston winter, snow, humidity, heat, or beautiful weather -- I go out no matter what. (In the interest of full disclosure, I did skip my walk a handful of times in the past few years -- when I was incredibly sick and when we had a record snowstorm that was dropping two inches of snow an hour. I did go walking after the storm, however, serving mostly as my own plow.)
There are absolutely mornings when I don’t feel like going for my walk. Especially when it’s dark and freezing in the winter and my body dreads going outside. But there has never been a single time when I came back and regretted going, not even on those winter mornings when I return with icicles on my eyelashes and it takes me an hour to feel my hands again. (Yes, my daughter once told me she thought I was nuts to out in that weather but that she was proud of me for doing it -- this warmed me so much it helped the icicles melt faster.)
My daily walk is my walking meditation, my steadfast ritual to get my body moving, get some fresh air into my lungs, and to grab some time just to be out there, moving. Often I listen to music (here is one of my favorite collections on Spotify) or podcasts (TED Radio Hour is my latest favorite obsession), but sometimes I walk listening to the world wake up around me. I love the familiarity of sounds and noticing new ones, especially in the spring when the birds are so loud and excited for warmer weather that they psych me up for the day.
When I travel -- and I do a lot -- I can’t always stick to my daily walk schedule, but I try my absolute hardest to fit in a daily walk at some point. I’ve been known to walk circles around an office building, when I had to go to meetings at a company that truly was in the middle of nowhere. My walk is like my anchor for the day -- I feel off-balance without it and if you ask my family, they’ll tell you the few times I had to skip it were not the greatest days (for me or for them.)
Walking is one of my favorite rituals and if there is one thing I could convince you to do for 10-30 minutes every day, it would be to take a walk outside.
The health benefits of walking are really amazing:
According to The American Heart Association, walking is one of the best exercises out there. Just 30 minutes a day delivers multiple benefits, including reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, improving blood pressure and sugar levels, maintaining body weight and reducing the risk of obesity, and many more. Walking has the lowest dropout rate from any other exercises -- because it’s so easy to do, you can do it anywhere, and it requires no special equipment other than a good pair of walking shoes -- and a recent research study showed that walking for an hour or more a day has the greatest impact on increasing lifespan than any other activity.
But more than just being really great for your physical well-being, walking is one of the best things you can do to feel more energized, positive, and well, yes, even happier. A recent study found people who spent some time outside daily had a greater sense of vitality, which led to improved moods and increased resilience against physical illnesses. Other studies have shown that just 20 minutes of being outdoors can help boost how you feel and when combined with exercise, the benefits multiply.
I can’t put it any better way than to say that I feel more alive from my walks. And I hope you’ll consider giving this awesome habit a shot. Here are a few suggestions for getting started:
- Find a time in your day when you can spend 10-30 minutes walking. Early in the morning, during lunch, perhaps after dinner? Having a regular time for your daily walk will help you fit it into your schedule.
- Listen to something you really enjoy during your walks -- eventually you might decide to just listen to what’s around you, but it’s a good idea to have something that occupies your mind when you start.
- Take some deep breaths. The feeling of the air filling your lungs is magical and will encourage you to keep going.
- Buddy up, if you can. Walking with a friend or colleague is an awesome way to do something good for you while catching up.