3 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma
Creating A Walking Habit (Part 1)Wellness, Mind Health, Health
If we could bottle up the effects of walking, and sell it, we would be rich. It may be the closest thing we have to a panacea. It can improve multiple areas of our health, all at once, and is literally outside your door. And although it isn’t exactly newsworthy that physical exercise is good for, it is surprising how beneficial walking is, given that it is relatively easy, does not require training or much equipment (just a good set of shoes!), and can be done at any age, with any skill level.
- Schedule It: we tend to complete what is in our schedule, and we tend to put off what’s not. Schedule walking just like you would schedule an appointment - have a start time, and an estimated length, and write it physically into the calendar. Don’t trust that it will just ‘happen’.
- Follow the 10 minute rule: starting is often the hardest part, but if you convince yourself to start, and commit to completing only 10 minutes, you may find that once you get going you can walk for a bit longer. Or, schedule multiple 10 minute breaks throughout the day, especially at times in the day when you find your energy wanes.
- Recruit a friend: starting a new habit can be challenging, but it may be easier to commit if you’ve got a friend on your side. You may have a friend, neighbor, or coworker, who is also trying to be more active - set a time where you two can meet and walk together.
- Attach a reward: walking can be intrinsically rewarding - you may notice a reduction in pain or stress, or lose weight, but sometimes we do well with having an immediate reward attached to a new habit. Maybe you get a coffee at the end of your walk, or save a podcast you love for your walk.
- Build it into the day: you likely have places to go, people to see, things to do! (Don’t we all?) But, you can build walking into your day, by parking a short distance from the office, suggesting a walk rather than a coffee meeting or a phone call, or, if possible, choosing to walk to and from your errands.
- Keep it Predictable, or Make it Varied: one of the key tenets of forming new habits, according to James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”, is that we must make it easy. For some of us, that might look like creating a predictable habit, such as ‘daily walks, every morning at 6am’. But for some, it may be easier if it’s actually varied, but attached to a cue, such as ‘after I eat lunch at the office, I go for a walk’; maybe some days this is noon, maybe other days it’s 2pm; either way, a cue (waking up, or lunchtime), triggers a response (going for a walk).