Over the past few years, it's been harder to get out and exercise. I haven't always found it easy to spend time outside between pandemic lockdowns, at-home workouts, and remote working.
Sure, I could lace up a set of the best running shoes for men and go for a run, but cardio exercise isn't really my thing. I prefer strength training, which helps build muscle, but it doesn't get me out of the house.
Plus, I like being able to chat with others, get a coffee, and listen to a podcast when I'm out and about; not the easiest thing to do while running. But I realized that I could fit in a 90-minute walk each morning before work with a bit of planning.
You don't often hear people talk about walking as a form of exercise, but there are so many benefits of walking that it sounded like an ideal low-impact way to ease into the day, stay active, and get outside.
Although 90 minutes seems long, it only took a few tweaks to my morning routine to fit in a walk each day. I woke up slightly earlier, moved my daily meditation to later on, and strolled into work on my office days.
The most exciting thing about walking is that it can improve your health, promote wellbeing, and keep you active, and it doesn't cost a thing. Here's what happened when I started walking every morning for a month.
James is an experienced fitness writer and staff writer for Fit&Well. He started taking regular walks back in 2013 to improve his fitness and has since come to love stepping outside, whether heading out for a mindful stroll or walking to the office.
1. My mood improved
Although I enjoy my work, thinking about it is not a very relaxing way to start the day. Getting outside helped me focus on the moment instead of planning for the future. In that way, it was similar to the benefits of meditating every day.
But there was also something nice about being outside in nature. Okay, not quite nature (I live in a city), but people were out walking their dogs, birds circled in the skies, and I started to appreciate local parks and green spaces more.
I'm not alone in this, as a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE (opens in new tab) found that "spending a lot of time in green space was significantly associated with lower anxiety and depression."
2. I was more productive
I decided on an early morning walk to get myself set up and in a good frame of mind. It also meant that I wouldn't get to the end of a long workday and opt for a night on the couch instead.
Heading out first thing also meant that I felt more energized when I sat down at my desk (although the coffee I buy at the local store may help too...). I was in a better frame of mind and motivated to get on with things.
Researchers have looked at whether you should exercise in the morning or evening, but there's no clear winner so far. The key to creating a long-term habit is to find a time that works for you.
3. My fitness improved
I've been using a set of the best adjustable dumbbells for at-home workouts for a few years now. I enjoy resistance training, but building muscle is only part of your overall fitness. Walking filled the cardio-sized hole in my exercise plans.
It's a low-impact way to stay active (it's much gentler on your knees than running), but, as a review in the journal Sports Medicine (opens in new tab) noted, it has health-boosting benefits, like reducing your blood pressure and risk of disease.
Despite what your fitness tracker says, you don't need to walk 10,000 steps each day to get the health and fitness benefits. Researchers suggest between 6,000 and 10,000, which is a more flexible target, making it easier to stick to.